National Occupational Standards: a surefire way to improve role specific talent searches

BioTalent Canada is working closely with industry experts to develop a set of National Occupational Standards (NOS) specific to Canada’s bio-economy. BioTalent Canada supports the people behind life-changing science and these NOS are just another aspect of that. If you’re an employer, wouldn’t it be great if you could eliminate some of the guesswork when recruiting talent for a specific role? At its core, that’s what NOS does.

Dirk Volschenk from Workforce Strategies and Louise Ablack from Entegrys Incorporated are serving as the world-class consultants in the NOS development. We asked them a few questions to shed some light on NOS and the process.

Q: What are National Occupational Standards? Do they exist in other industries?

LA: National Occupational Standards (NOS) document the skills, education, and credentials—performance indicators and supporting knowledge—industry requires to perform effectively in a particular occupation. NOS have become sought after management tools in many industries not only within Canada, but globally.

DV: Essentially, they’re a tool that can help organizations manage talent requirements effectively through creating localized job/role specifications to use in different talent management activities like criteria to recruit and select candidates for jobs, identify behaviors that need to be developed through training, readiness for promotions, and potential successors for critical positions in the company.

Q: What are the short- and long-term impacts of NOS for the bio-economy?

LA: Competency-based NOS can have an immediate impact on hiring success by helping employers identify the best fit for position requirements. NOS also offer objective standards for talent management and development, and for more effective succession planning. In the competitive global talent race, NOS offer organizations a tool to identify and attract the best.

DV: When standards are clear, the industry can protect itself from employing people without the ability to do the work or not knowing how to develop their employees to be successful. When standards are collectively accepted, workforce mobility will increase tremendously—companies can source nationally, and people can work and move more freely between the different provinces.

Q: Why is input from industry experts such a vital component of NOS?

LA: NOS require both validity and defensibility to be useful and accepted within industry. Industry experts increase both factors. Their firsthand knowledge and experience increase validity by ensuring the competency profiles are complete and reflect real world requirements. Their involvement and support facilitate industry buy-in which, added to validity, creates the defensibility necessary for successful implementation within the industry.

Q: Can you provide an update on the project?

DV: We’ve continued over the past year under very difficult conditions to collaborate and involve industry experts to develop the bulk of the required profiles. The next phase is to survey the profiles with stakeholders on a national basis.

Most of the work is also completed to prepare the profiles for broad base stakeholder input, and this process is well underway. When the surveys are completed, the profiles will we finalized and published.

Q: Who benefits the most from industry-specific NOS?

LA: We’ve already talked about the impact of NOS on organizations and management. Employees benefit from the transparent and objective set of performance standards NOS offer. Industry-specific NOS guide students and job seekers as they investigate the requirements of various career streams.

DV: I would say anybody using this to make people management decisions or career decisions.

LA: Who benefits the most from industry-specific NOS? Everyone benefits!

A set of National Occupational Standards is another piece of the puzzle that makes up a successful and effective talent recruitment and retention plan.

There’s still time to share your expertise and play a role in improving the long-term sustainability of your profession—and the entire bio-economy. Getting involved is easy! Just reach out to Adriana Saenz to take part in a NOS survey specific to your profession. You can help ignite the brainpower of Canada’s bio-economy.

Visit for more information on the National Occupational Standards project and the development process.

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program. Canada logo