3.3 Core competencies

Core competencies are the basic building blocks common across most occupations and industries. They describe a set of non-specialist skills gained in early life and schooling and provide a base to further develop skills and specialties. Popular terms for these include ‘foundation skills’, ‘common skills’, ‘soft skills’, ‘core skills’ and ‘employability skills’.

Using desktop research and consultation with relevant stakeholders and subject matter experts, the NSC identified 10 core competencies required for every occupation in Australia (see Table 1).

The NSC aligned the core competencies to the definitions of foundation skills typically used in the Australian vocational education system. Specifically, the Employability Skills Framework developed by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). The minor differences between the Commission’s 10 core competencies and ASQA’s foundation skills were recommended by education system experts.

Score for core competencies 

The 10 core competencies are required in every occupation across the whole labour market, but different occupations require different levels of core competencies. To derive the competency required for a skill within an occupation the Commission mapped the 10 core competencies to values from three different O*NET categories of data that offered the most relevant proxy for each of the ten core competencies:

  • Skills
  • Work Styles
  • Work Activities

The O*NET score values range between 1 and 7, where the higher the value, the higher the level of the skill is needed to perform a job. The other 7 anchor on the 10-point scales were derived from the Australian classifications and ratings systems and modified to fit the context. We used Australian references, such as the Australian Qualification Framework and Australian Core Skills Framework to fill out another 7 examples across the 10-point scale. An example of anchor values for one core competency is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Ten point scale for the core competency “writing”
Core competency Description Competency Description Value Value Description
O*NET Skills Communicating effectively in writing in a way that is appropriate for the audience 1 Write name and address on a membership form, copying another document
2 Write everyday workplace specific vocabulary and abbreviations, e.g. product names
3 Take a telephone message
4 Write a job history as part of a job application
5 Prepare a standard operating procedures document
6 Write a memo to staff outlining new directives
7 Write a detailed literature review
8 Write a legally binding contract for services provided by one business to another
9 Write a novel for publication
10 Write a thesis on metaphor, syntax and grammar in nineteenth century novels