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TVET Council Barbados

Occupational Standards - How to Use

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In addition to being used as the basis for developing education/training programmes and underpinning human resource management processes (e.g. job descriptions, job specifications, performance appraisals), the national occupational standards (NOS) are also used to provide recognised certification in the form of the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs). TVET Council awards NVQs or CVQs to candidates who are assessed in a real or realistic work setting against the standards and deemed competent in the specific occupational areas and levels.

See the following guidelines listed below for examples of how to use the Occupational Standards.
Application 1: Creating a Competence-based Job Description

To produce job descriptions:

  • that specify all necessary competences
  • in a language shared by everyone
  • for existing jobs and new jobs
  • which enable performance to be measured against objective criteria.
  • To help individuals describe their own job, in the absence of formal job descriptions
What is it?

A job description specifies the duties, responsibilities and requirements of the job; basing on these competences clearly specifying the standards of performance expected, the skills and knowledge required.

What are the Benefits?

A Standards-based Job Description is important for new staff, new posts and for reorganisations, as well as existing posts:

  • it enables you to select the right person for the job;
  • in an objective way, complying with equal opportunities legislation;
  • it encourages a shared understanding of the job and its priorities;
  • it is in a standardised format shared with applicants, recruitment agencies and other employers.
  • transferable skills developed in other contexts are identified;
  • the objective format supports the use of procedures for appraisal, delegation, self development, systematic training,
  • it helps to identify rewardess, increases motivation and facilitates disciplinary action.
  • competence based job descriptions can be used in defining QA procedures.

Using the Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills means

  • jobs can be redesigned quickly without omissions
  • training needs can be identified quickly and objectively
  1. Understand the need for the role
    Find out current main business issues. Identify the context of the job within the organisation. What are the ‘key roles’ required of the job holder.
  2. List the main responsibilities and include Person Specification
    What functions does the job holder perform?  To whom will the person be responsible to and for what? Decide on the personal and vocational profile of attributes to fit in with the rest of the team.
  3. Select appropriate Occupational Standards (use the Common Steps)
    The Standards should include those relating to all aspects of the job: technical, management of self and others, ability to cope safely with contingencies, working within the overall job environment. Appropriate levels of Key/Core Skills.
  4. Finalise the agreed Job Description
    Assemble the Standards into a draft job description. Get feedback on the draft, finalise and distribute it to Job Holders, Managers etc.
  5. Review the approach
    Undertake periodic reviews, probably best done during Staff Appraisals. Is the job description sound? How would you do it better next time?

To create a competence-based performance appraisal procedure that fits the needs and style of the organisation.

What is it?

Performance appraisal is a formal procedure to ensure that employees receive objective feedback on their performance, in the context of organisational goals and enabling them to improve themselves. It is often used:

  • to audit an employee’s competences.
  • to identify potential and agree on targets.
  • to review achievements.
  • to communicate and align plans and priorities, both personal and the organisation’s.
  • to identify training and development needs, and monitor career progression.
  • to provide feedback and motivate an employee.

It can take many forms and have different objectives. It usually has 5 stages:

  1. preparation for an interview.
  2. the interview itself.
  3. resolution of disputes [hopefully unnecessary].
  4. recording and reporting
  5. reporting up the line.
What are the benefits?

A good staff appraisal system encourages:

  • employees to excel, contributing fully to achieving the organisation’s objectives.
  • flexibility, thus facilitating the implementation of change.
  • vertical communication, openness and candour.
  • employees and line managers to both develop themselves and work together.
  • the retention of good staff.
  • the allocation of staff to tasks which offer opportunities for development.
  • staff to take a long term, strategic view.
  1. Agree objectives  
    Review the current situation of staff, organisational structure and responsibilities. Define the objectives of the performance appraisal system by:
    Once the objectives have been identified management agreement must be obtained.
    • Setting individual/organisational targets
    • Communicating organisational plans
    • Identifying employee career development needs and responsibilities
    • Assessing potential promotion opportunities
    • Determining pay/bonus levels
    • Increasing commitment/motivation
    • Updating personnel records.
  2. Select appropriate competences  
    Divide the work-force into groups sharing similar competences. Identify appropriate Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills. Tailor the competences to your situation (use the Common Steps).
  3. Design the Appraisal process  
    Identify the appraisal outputs and any constraints (from agreed objectives). Design a process and recording mechanism that is useful, efficient and fair, and involves the employee and other interested parties.
  4. Test them with a pilot  
    Choose who will pilot. Plan what resource inputs are needed for implementation and benefits that will result. Train the appraisers and employees to use the selected approach. Carry out the pilot. Review and revise.
  5. Fit the new system into the organisation’s procedures  
    Align the organisation’s procedures for: time sheets, budgets, pay, promotion, discipline, QA, routine reports, personnel records, training and development.
  6. Operate, monitor, review and adapt  
    Run the system. Monitor what happens. Overcome problems and make the system work even better. Identify benefits.

To help the organisation:

  • develop ways of focusing the investment in its people.
  • formulate a structured approach to the effective and efficient use of limited training & development resources.
What is it?

A method of systematically analysing the training & development needs of individuals and groups in an organisation.

What are the benefits?

Organisations need to ensure that:

  • staff are competent to perform current and anticipated tasks
  • people are motivated and developed in ways that have a direct positive impact on success of the business .
  • resources are used in the most effective way.

Best practice guidance (e.g. the Investors in People standards):

  • calls for structured identification of training & development needs

Using the Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills means:

  • training needs can be developed quickly and objectively
  • training can be evaluated
  • relevant competences will not be overlooked/forgotten
  • it is a format shared with training and education providers making it easier to identify appropriate training and education courses and materials
  1. Identify the needs
    Consider strategic issues, including:
    Consult and gather enough information to identify current and future needs. Plan the needs analysis in conjunction with key people in the organisation. Consider organisational needs, occupation needs and individual needs. Survey the staff to identify needs.
    • Predicted trends and changes
    • Organisational Opportunities
    • Organisational performance shortfalls
    • Employee performance shortfalls
  2. Develop a list of Occupational Standards 
    Use the Common Steps to identify the relevant Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills.
  3. Agree competence gaps 
    Carry out a detailed quantitative survey. Agree and prioritise training needs from competence-based evidence. Capability is measured against Standards criteria and importance is measured against business needs. Gain support for the results.
  4. The Training & Development activity 
    The training activity is outside the scope of this application. However, it is possible to identify whether the need is for performance/experience and/or knowledge and understanding.
    An appropriate type of training/development activity can then be selected (e.g. in-house coaching, specific external course, personal study etc.).
  5. Tracking progress 
    Monitor and record progress using performance appraisals, learning logs, etc. (see other Applications).
  6. Evaluate the approach 
    Preferably at organisational, team and individual levels. Organistions should identify indicators of business improvement, teams should identify improved processes, and individuals should identify personal motivation and reward.

To provide individuals with an objective view of their own capability: expertise, competence, motivation and ability to learn. To help individuals create a benchmark against which to measure their own performance, in the absence of a formal job description.

What is it?

Self-appraisal is assessing your own capabilities and personal characteristics. Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills provide a framework and language with which to describe them.

What are the benefits?
  • Self appraisal is a vital component of managing one’s own professional development. It helps individuals to:
  • plan and manage their careers.
  • improve their job performance.
  • improve their capacity to learn.
  • increase their self confidence and present themselves more effectively.
  • identify and take advantage of job and learning opportunities.
  • obtain support from mentors and managers.
  • manage and provide support to others.

Employees with realistic self appraisal are more likely to:

  • be loyal to a supportive environment.
  • be committed to improving their own and colleagues’ performance.
  • develop themselves to their full potential.
  • reliably manage their work and careers.
  • make use of their training, development and experience as life-long learning.
  • become good role models for others.
  1. Clarify personal aims
    Focus on your objectives – how much is your self appraisal focused on: improved work performance, enhanced career development or personal growth? Record your aims.
  2. Manage the Appraisal
    Find sources of help. Use the Common Steps to identify relevant Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills. Gather insights from others inside and outside the organisation according to personal circumstances.  Record the results.
  3. Review personal experience
    Look at CV, performance appraisal records, portfolios of evidence, and significant events. Assess values, interests, competences, motivation, contacts. Know yourself.
  4. Assess your own competences
    Assess yourself against Occupational Standards and Key/Core Skills. Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Analyse your job. Use diagnostic tools. Identify your priority competences in terms of relative importance of career competence needs and ease of access/opportunities for achieving.
  5. Assess what helps and hinders your development
    Identify your learning style and forces for/against personal change.
  6. Review self-appraisal process
    Identify the benefits. Record the results and improve the process.

This is a general ‘subroutine’ for virtually all applications of the Occupational Standards. You will normally enter this subroutine from any of the main applications.


To identify the Occupational Standards and Core Skills which correspond to a particular job role/occupation.

What is an Occupational Standard?

An Occupational Standard is a national specification of competent performance in the work-place. It defines an element of competence, which people are expected to achieve in the real work environment. It is written in terms shared by all occupations in the sector. These elements represent best current practice and include detailed specifications against which performance can be measured.

An Occupational Standard is expressed in a prescribed format: a title, performance criteria, and range indicators. The Standards, when in NVQs/CVQs, are accompanied by: a specification of evidence that is required for assessment, and the range indicators are made more specific, becoming range statements.

Related Occupational Standards are grouped together to form a Unit - the smallest separate qualification. Units are assembled into NVQs/CVQs, and tailored to describe the competence required for a full occupation.

What are Core Skills?

Core Skills are common to a wide range of tasks.  The six core skills are:

  • Communication
  • Application of number
  • Information Technology
  • Working with others
  • Improving one's own learning and performance
  • Problem solving

These are transferable skills which play an important role in developing personal effectiveness in working life and in the application of particular vocational skills.

Core Skills Standards have been developed by the TVET Council.


In the main application, define clearly what you wish to achieve, your objectives. Then enter these common steps:

  1. Define Job Role
    Form a clear idea of the job role(s). List the key functions, activities and outputs.
  2. Review available NVQs/CVQs
    Gather information and advice. Obtain copies of relevant Occupational Standards, NVQs/CVQs. How well do they fit? [If they fit the job role, return to the main application] Decide about extra competences. [If some aspects are not properly catered for: do steps 3, 4 (&5?)]
  3. Select appropriate Units
    Develop a customised set of Units. Identify relevant Units. Assemble Units which match the job role.
  4. Review individual Standards
    Keep only relevant Elements for the Units. Modify the Unit/Element title to fit. [Return to the main application unless you really have to go to Step 5].
  5. Review detailed contents of Occupational Standards
    [This step is for personnel specialists/training providers]. Check that you have the latest Standards. When Occupational Standards are used in a qualification, they are changed in three ways. Modify PCs, Range and Evidence Specifications.
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