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Developing the UK’s Standard Occupational Classification

Research led by Prof. Elias of IER underpins the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) used in the UK and internationally. It is used by governments, industry bodies and employers, educational institutions, careers advisors and researchers to understand the occupational structure of the labour market. Information from it is used to identify skills and training needs in different sectors, in economic development planning. IER’s research has underpinned both the establishment and continuance of the SOC, the latest iteration being SOC 2020.

IER’s has been the leading authority on occupational classification since the 1980s, with the introduction of SOC, a coding system used to classify occupations. Since then, SOC has become the international standard for classifying jobs. However, jobs are not static and IER’s post-2000 work has focused on understanding the ways in which innovation, new technologies, changes in the organisation of work, revisions to occupational training and qualification requirements, together with shifts in demand for goods and services all impact on the nature of occupations, and mean that SOC classification needs to be adjusted. This has led to the development of the SOC 2010 and the new SOC 2020 classifications by researchers at IER.

In updating and revising the SOC in the UK, IER researchers worked with the Classifications Unit of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to review the skills and qualifications necessary for different jobs. It is used by, for example, the Home Office and the National Audit Office, educational institutions (including HESA), government agencies such as Careers Wales and Skills Development Scotland and representative bodies such as the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists and the Craft and Engineering Councils. The SOC has also worked with HESA to develop a classification of graduate jobs (SOC 2010 DLHE), now used by the ONS to identify the proportion of graduates who are leaving higher education and obtain professional level jobs.

This approach is used in other countries. For example during 2015 and 2016 IER produced an occupational classification for Barbados (BARSOC). The Barbados government uses this classification to provide more accurate information to employers and job seekers about the labour market, job vacancies and the skills and qualifications required for jobs in the contemporary labour market. From it, the Barbados Government established the ‘Civil Service Qualifications Order’ which enables all interested parties to see the qualifications that are required for over 1000 different jobs in the public sector in Barbados.


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