National Occupational Standards (NOS)

National Occupational Standards (NOS) accurately describe what you need to do, know and understand in your job to carry out your role in a consistent and competent way, which helps make sure your industry has the skills it needs.

How they are developed?

We develop NOS by working with each industry in the land-based sector to identify the job roles within that industry and what functions they carry out, including:

  • Technical functions specific to the occupation
  • Transferable functions such as communication or managing your workload.

We then put this information into an Occupational and Functional Map.

These maps list all functions required for the industry. We then work with the industry to identify what a person 'must be able to do' and what they 'must know and understand' to carry out each function competently. This information then forms the basis of a NOS. To ensure they remain up to date and fit for purpose, the NOS are reviewed periodically.

To make sure NOS meet the requirements for quality and consistency, we follow laid down quality control procedures.

Find out exactly how we write and develop NOS.

What are they used for?

You can use NOS in a number of ways. They are particularly useful for defining competency requirements for the workforce and identifying training and development needs. They are also used by awarding organisations to underpin qualifications in your industry.

You can use NOS to:

  • Define the job roles of staff
  • Write and review job descriptions
  • Measure staff skills
  • Identify training and development needs
  • Design and develop training programmes & training materials
  • Measure how effective training is
  • Develop industry’s qualifications
  • Plus much more.

Mapping NOS to in-house training, materials and job roles

Lantra’s National Occupational Standards (NOS) team have over 25 years of experience in developing National Occupational Standards and related products.  The team has experience of working closely with industry to identify and develop Standards to address any gaps which have been identified, as well as mapping the NOS to in-house training provision. This has included working with the Institute of Bee Keepers to turn their training programmes into National Occupational Standards and Scottish Natural Heritage, to map the National Occupational Standards to their training materials.

The support available ranges from; mapping the National Occupational Standards to your job descriptions, training programmes or qualification, to workshops on using National Occupational Standards in your organisation.

What are the benefits to business?

NOS are important for businesses large and small. Using them can help:

  • Describe the skills you need in your workforce
  • Discover the skills of your current employees
  • Identify skills gaps and shortages
  • Develop training and recruitment plans
  • Recruit staff with the skills you need
  • Improve your business processes.

This will not only help enhance your business but will make sure we have a professional and competitive industry.

What’s more, by getting involved with developing and reviewing NOS, you can help make sure they best describe the skills, knowledge and understanding needed by your industry.

The National Occupational Standards developed by Lantra can be accessed and downloaded from the UK Standards website.

Which NOS is being reviewed this year? 

During 2018 and 2019, Lantra will be reviewing the following National Occupational Standards:

  • Horticulture National Occupational Standards
  • Agricultural Crop Production National Occupational Standards
  • Livestock Production National Occupational Standards
  • Fencing National Occupational Standards
  • Veterinary Nursing National Occupational Standards.

Lantra will be calling on industry experts from across all four nations together to work on the review of these National Occupational Standards. 

Once the National Occupational Standards are at draft stage, Lantra will conduct a wider industry consultation across all four Nations.

If you would like more information regarding National Occupational Standards or the current review projects, please contact the Standards Team.

Guide for writing National Occupational Standards

Whenever anyone thinks about personal development, whether about their own or their colleagues’, one of the first things they tend to consider is “what are the skills and knowledge that we have?” and “what are the skills and knowledge that we need?”  Breaking down the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to undertake a particular task or job is often difficult. Recognising if a colleague or a job interviewee possesses those skills, can be even harder.

National Occupational Standards (NOS for short) describe what a person needs to do, know and understand in their job to carry out their role in a consistent and competent way. Competence is defined as an individual’s ability to apply skills, knowledge and understanding in the workplace to a standard agreed by employers. National Occupational Standards are the building blocks for many UK wide qualifications and for numerous professional or business improvement tools.   

NOS are National because they apply to and are used across each of the four nations of the UK where the functions are carried out. NOS are Occupational because they describe the performance required of individuals to deliver functions of their occupations in their workplaces. NOS are Standards because they are statements of effective performance for the things individuals do and the outcomes they achieve which have been agreed by a representative sample of employers and key stakeholders and approved by the UK NOS Panel. 

NOS are not:

  • Courses: they do not describe the detailed learning that is required
  • Training programmes: they do not describe the development necessary to become competent
  • Units: they do not describe learning outcomes or assessment requirements
  • Qualifications: unless they have been placed into a qualification structure (Scottish Vocational Qualifications only)
  • Levelled: they are not developed according to qualification or other level based approaches.

When developing National Occupational Standards it is important to remember that the final product must be readable by anyone.  It is important that you don’t use long sentences and words which are not familiar to the industry.


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, key trends and developments and opportunities for progression.

Functional Map

Once this first part is completed, the next stage it 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 restaurant owner needs people who can provide customers with food and drink.

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 yourself what needs to happen to achieve this function/activity. E.g. prepare public area of the restaurant for service, establish and meet customer needs.

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.  So for the function, prepare public areas of the restaurant for service two NOS have been identified:

  • Prepare the restaurant area for service
  • Prepare tables for service.

On completion of the above analysis what is known as a functional map is produced. This is 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.

Using NOS from other Standard Setting Organisations (Importing)

Existing NOS should be used wherever possible especially on activities which are transferable such as: business planning, working with others, communication, customer service. Using other NOS where possible, increases the opportunity for transferability of the people in the workforce.

These existing NOS can be reviewed by the industry group working on the development as they understand what skills and knowledge are needed. They will look to see if the existing NOS describe the standard of performance required by their sector, occupation or area of work.  If they do they can be used by this industry. It is useful if you also include the Sector Skills Council or body who own the NOS as they may be willing to make small changes to the NOS to make them suitable.

Developing new NOS

Each NOS specifies the standard of performance an individual must achieve when carrying out the function in the workplace, together with the underpinning knowledge and understanding.

NOS should be written as concisely and clearly as possible and be appropriate to the individuals who carry out the function. Where evidence is shown they should also be translated into Welsh.

NOS Title

The title of each NOS should be unique, as concise as possible whilst clearly and accurately describing the function it covers.

The title should start with an active verb e.g. maintain health and safety in your area of responsibility.

NOS Overview

The overview should indicate to the reader what the NOS is about and who it is for.  It should be clear and concise and should not provide a full summary of the content of the NOS.

Performance Criteria

These should answer the question, what does an individual need to do in order to carry out this function consistently to the required standard?

Performance Criteria should cover all aspects which are critical to carrying out the activity competently.

Each performance criteria should start with an active verb and follow the phrase 'you must be able to…’.

Knowledge and Understanding

This should answer the question, what does an individual need to know and understand in order to carry this function consistently to the required standard?

The level of detail in the knowledge and understanding will depend on the nature of the function being performed, but should only contain that which is essential for effective performance.

NOS can also include the following:


This can be used where different circumstances or situations have a critical impact on performance.  It should not be used to provide illustrative examples or clarify the meaning of a phrase (this would go into Glossary).  Using the example of providing customer service, people may come across different types such as:

Customers who are, co-operative, difficult, with special requirements.


Some bodies, in particular those relating to care occupations, like to include values which underpin performance and will often include a statement identifying the values e.g. provide an integrated, ethical and inclusive service, which meets agreed needs and outcomes of people requiring health and social care.


In some industries, outcomes alone are not seen as enough and employers also feel it is important to describe the general ways in which individuals go about achieving the outcomes. E.g. you give people opportunities to provide feedback and you respond appropriately, you clearly agree what is expected of others and you hold them to account.


Or key list of words and phrases, with explanations of the particular meaning of these words and phrases as they are used within the NOS.

Links to other NOS

This is useful as is show how this NOS links with another NOS in the same suite or other suites.