• Fraser Harper

Building on the technical occupational maps – how to extend, how to add

While occupational maps have existed in the minds of most people as a way of seeing their career progression and future success, they are a relatively recent addition to the portrayal and mapping of related occupations. During the work of the Independent Panel on Technical Education in the UK[1] and the subsequent work with the delivery Government Department (the Department for Education taking over from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills) a series of occupational maps were developed by BMI. Subsequently, the occupational maps have been managed and updated by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education[2].

The occupational maps cover 15 routes into and through skilled technical employment and draw together those occupations that are almost totally found in UK SOC codes 2 – 5[3]. Additionally, the maps provide a useful guide to show the technical options available for individuals, as well as employers and training providers who are interested in offering it. Currently each of the maps are owned by a dedicated Route Panel made-up of industry experts. It is the Route Panels that have the responsibility for ensuring the maps remain up to date as new standards are approved and others are reviewed[4].

Now the occupational maps are relatively static as regards cross-maps linkages and connections to other sources of relevant data. As the use of the maps matures, it might be time to see how the initial frameworks can be built on and improved. Here we lay out several ways this might be done and is in part based on our experiences of using the concept of occupational maps with clients outside of the UK.

We have identified four ways in which the current occupation maps can be further improved:

  1. By adding new data from other sources

  2. By providing a means for analysis of the data held on the maps

  3. By changing the nature of the presentation of the maps

  4. By changing how the operation of the maps is managed

Possible areas of improvement of the occupational maps: adding new dataImprovement areaDescriptionIdentify emerging and new skills, groups of skills and occupationsO*NET operates a rolling annual renewal and update process which covers at least 100 occupations along with job advert scrapping for new job titles, tools and technologies used within an occupation. It is worth noting that the UK SOC system only lists 369 occupations while the US equivalent lists 821.Extending competency definition and mappingBy combining elements in O*NET with those in the standards.Standards descriptionExtend and add to the current standards profiles by using O*NET element data and information across its 270+ variables.Addition of links to employment and earnings dataProvide a link from each standard to a source which shows current employment numbers, forecast employment numbers, current vacancy rates, and related earnings data. Based on these data, growth outlook ratings could also be added.

Possible area of improvement of the occupational maps: analysis[5]Improvement areaDescriptionAssess and test new standards acceptanceBy databasing the standards and having occupational content profiles, comparisons can be made to assess the quality and potential duplication of any proposed standardsAssess and test for standards commonality and alignmentAcross existing and new standards comparisons can be made to ensure consistency and alignmentAssess and test for curriculum matchingBy databasing the standards, the assessment approach, and the curriculum it is possible to assess for alignment and potential gapExtend the view of progression along pathways, maps and across pathways and mapsOpportunities for progression can be explored along a pathway and whole map and also across other ones (non-linear careers) and so assess for robustness of the standards for future progression.Assess standard’s occupational match and coverageMatching of an occupation content with a standard to see the degree of match and coverageHighest potential standards for progressionIdentify which standards provide the greatest progression potential based on content and the development of a set of skills which enhance entry and progression across multiple maps

Possible areas for improvement in the occupational maps: presentationImprovement areasDescriptionInteractive links from the maps to the standardsMake the current maps directly link across to the listing of standardsInteractive comparisonsBe able to extract two or more standards and make direct comparisons to identify common areas and differences

Possible area for improvement in the occupational maps: operationImprovement areasDescriptionSetting appropriate renewal cycle timesThe half-life of knowledge in some technical subjects and related occupations has been reducing indicating the need for more frequent update and reviews required of the standards. The O*NET annual update process is useful here.Adopting language standardisationO*NET works to a strict protocol as regards language, terms used and statement formats, this could be incorporated into the current set of standards and ease of test data for analysis

Occupational maps are a potential major building block for multiple users. It’s important they are developed further and made as user friendly as possible.


[1] Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education (The Sainsbury Report). April 2016. 102 pages.

[2] https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/ where the occupational maps are listed and are fully accessible.

[3] The UK SOC system divides occupations across 9 main categories, with 2-5 covering most technical occupations: Professional Occupations (SOC 2); Associate Professional and Technical Occupations (SOC 3); Administrative and Secretarial Occupations (SOC 4); and, Skilled Trades Occupations (SOC 5).

[4] Institute for Apprenticeships website, op. cit.

[5] The apprenticeship standard requirements used by the Institute for Apprenticeships focus on four main items: is the standard transferable; is sufficiently broad, deep and skilled; provides full occupational competence for new entrants; and, is recognised and stands alone. The items listed under “analysis” would assist in this initial review of submitted standards seeking acceptance by the Institute.

#OccupationalMaps #TechnicalCareers #TechnicalProgression

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Occupational maps have become a part of the UK’s skills and qualification infrastructure and are well used by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE1). To date, the maps have