Standards and Classification systems (1)

One thing I frequently get asked questions about is classification systems. How are jobs classified and where does the classification system come from? Are classification systems the same in the UK and in other countries? How are job classifications related to courses? And how does LMI for All use classification systems?

In this and a following post I will try to answer some of those questions. In the UK jobs are classified according to the Standard Occupation System 2010 (SOC 2010) which was an updated version of the previous SOC2000 classification. The Standard Occupational Classification, first introduced in 1990, is maintained by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Occupations are divided into groups and ONS explains that “the major group structure is a set of broad occupational categories that are designed to be useful in bringing together unit groups which are similar in terms of the qualifications, training, skills and experience commonly associated with the competent performance of work tasks.

SOC 2010 has nine major groups and 25 sub-major groups with 90 minor groups and 369 unit groups. The following table provides a list of the major groups and the general nature of qualifications, training and experience for occupations in the major group.

Major group General nature of qualifications, training and experience for occupations in the major group
Managers, directors and senior officials A significant amount of knowledge and experience of the production processes and service requirements associated with the efficient functioning of organisations and businesses.
Professional occupations A degree or equivalent qualification, with some occupations requiring postgraduate qualifications and/or a formal period of experience-related training.
Associate professional and technical occupations An associated high-level vocational qualification, often involving a substantial period of full-time training or further study.  Some additional task-related training is usually provided through a formal period of induction.
Administrative and secretarial occupations A good standard of general education.  Certain occupations will require further additional vocational training to a well-defined standard (e.g. office skills).
Skilled trades occupations A substantial period of training, often provided by means of a work based training programme.
Caring, leisure and other service occupations A good standard of general education. Certain occupations will require further additional vocational training, often provided by means of a work-based training programme.
Sales and customer service occupations A general education and a programme of work-based training related to Sales procedures. Some occupations require additional specific technical knowledge but are included in this major group because the primary task involves selling.
Process, plant and machine operatives The knowledge and experience necessary to operate vehicles and other mobile and stationary machinery, to operate and monitor industrial plant and equipment, to assemble products from component parts according to strict rules and procedures and subject assembled parts to routine tests. Most occupations in this major group will specify a minimum standard of competence for associated tasks and will have a related period of formal training.
Elementary occupations Occupations classified at this level will usually require a minimum general level of education (that is, that which is acquired by the end of the period of compulsory education). Some occupations at this level will also have short periods of work-related training in areas such as health and safety, food hygiene, and customer service requirements.

The next edition of SOC is expected in 2020 and work is already underway. The revisions are undertaken both to help employers and other users in using SOC and also to reflect the changing use of job descriptions and changes in employment. For instance, many more jobs include manager in the job title than would have been 20 years ago. At the same time there has been a rapid growth of jobs in the service sector and in computer based occupations, with the need for new descriptions to reflect this.

Standard Occupational Classification is sometimes mixed with the Standard Industrial Classification system (SIC). As the names imply while SOC describes and classifies occupations SIC provides a classification system for different industries.

One question that we are frequently asked about with LMI for All is why we cannot provide a breakdown of employment in different occupations at a city or local level. Certainly, it would be useful for job seekers and for people planning their career. But employment figures in occupations are derived from a quarterly survey – the Labour Force Survey – and the sample size is simply too small to provide reliable data at local level.

Also in some occupations we do not have sufficient data to provide numbers at a unit group level. In this case we revert to minor group data.

In the next article I will look at the relation between SOC 2010 and other international classification systems.