National Occupational Standards start their life through research into a sector/industry to identify the size and profile of the sector, the types of occupations, keys trends and developments and opportunities for progression.

Once this first part is completed, the next stage is to look at particular areas of work in the sector/occupation to identify the jobs and functions/activities that you do as part of your job. You start by identifying the key purpose of the role which should relate to all types of people who work in the sector/occupation. The key purpose is the aim of the occupational area and must point to an outcome e.g. a farm manager needs people who can manage crop production.

Once the key purpose has been identified, the next stage is to find out what the broad functions/activities are to achieve the key purpose; for each of these you ask the question what needs to happen to achieve this function/activity? E.g. Preparation to plant crops.

To then arrive at the NOS for each of these functions/activities, you ask yourself the question again what needs to happen to achieve this function/activity? Therefore, for the function: Preparation to plant crops, two NOS have been identified:

  1. Cultivate the soil
  2. Plant crops.

The functional areas can be occupationally specific to the industry or transferable across industries, such as, communication, health and safety and customer service.

This information is then transferred into the occupational and functional maps. The maps are then used to identify where suitable NOS already exist or highlight the need for NOS development. Development is always carried out in conjunction with the relevant industry.

Each NOS should be written as concisely and clearly as possible and be appropriate to the individuals who carry out the function. The NOS title should be unique and appropriately describe the function it covers.

The NOS overview should indicate to the reader what the NOS is about and who it is for and provide a short summary of the content of the NOS.

The NOS performance criteria and knowledge and understanding should answer the questions, what does an individual need to do and know in order to carry out this function consistently to the required standard?

Where appropriate, NOS may also contain scope that indicates the different variables an individual might have to deal with, e.g. cultivate various types of soil: sand, silt, clay, loam.

A glossary - list of key words and phrases can also be included within the NOS, with explanations of their particular meaning.