History and Platform Development

A common language must have context or a culture in which to operate. Even a common language for skills cannot address every worker preparation challenge in isolation of a whole person development approach. It is evident that occupation-specific skills are just one measure of the talent development process that includes core academics, workplace fundamental skills and firm-specific skills. Thus the common introduction language for occupational skills must be presented in the context of a multi-dimensional talent development process . The academic literature is full of multi-tiered competency models that examine every aspect of education and training, from the perspective of industry sectors such as advanced manufacturing to individual professions such as accounting or teaching.

For example, the 1996 Building Linkages project attempted to create a voluntary skills standards system, teaming the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) with the National School to Work Office and the National Skills Standards Board. This effort resulted in 16 career clusters, complete with career pathways that facilitate cross-occupation competency attainment. This model was designed to help align core cluster curricula with occupational options across multiple exit points, e.g. occupations that require Associate’s degrees and Bachelor’s degrees share certain core academic competencies. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOL/ETA) similarly publishes several well-articulated, nine-tier industry competency models that cover everything from personal effectiveness to management competencies. Unfortunately, these more extensive and elaborate models lack the three things critical to broad implementation at the grass roots level; simplicity of design, the ability for each stakeholder to easily recognize their potential role in the talent development process, and substantial, continuous business engagement.

Thus, before a common language for skills can be created, there must first be a simple contextual framework. Since a major objective of the Common Skills Language Platform is practical application and stakeholder engagement, an elemental Human Capital Development Model (HCDM) was created.  This model has only four tiers; core academics, workplace basics, occupational skills and firm-specific skills. The Common Skills Language Platform is not intended to encompass every aspect of talent development.

Lastly, there will always be skills that workers can only learn within the workplace of an individual employer. Here again we concentrate on the core of occupational skills that drive the economy. This effort recognizes that no college or training institution will ever be able to keep pace with all the evolving skills in diverse, individual work environments. Business will always have a role in worker training. In fact, the argument could be made that since business profits from having students with strong academics, exemplary work attitude and behaviors and solid, core vocational skills. Thus, they should and will be willing to make additional training investments on firm-specific tools, technologies and business processes. The Common Skills Language Platform embraces this reality and offers a model for business to build skills-based career lattices within their own organizations that align with external education and training programs.

Origins of the Common Skill Language Project








Weak Link


Missing Link


DWAs assess entry healthcare occupations




Launch of C4EO