What are National Occupational Standards?

The National Occupational Standards define individual competence in performance terms – the successful outcome of work activity. They are concerned with what people can do, not just what they know. They promote industry best practice, and have been developed by industry practitioners covering all industry sectors.

Occupational standards have great value and utility within industry. They can, for example, be used for recruitment and selection, job design and evaluation, training needs analysis, learning programmes and performance appraisals. Good employers invest in training their staff in order to remain competitive while, at the same time, providing individuals with improved skills and opportunities for career development. The standards provide an essential benchmark for all this activity.

The standards in this suite reflect the core functions relevant to the publishing sector. They consist of units and elements that describe the expected outcomes of competent performance.


In the early 1980s, the government determined to improve the effectiveness of British industry by introducing national standards of occupational competence. These standards were to be 'explicit, agreed, widely accessible, flexible, progressive and testable' (Manpower Services Commission, 1981). Representative bodies were established to set effective standards appropriate to each industry sector and relevant to the current and future needs of the competent practitioner. Successive governments continued to support this policy, and standards are now in place covering the vast majority of the industrial and professional sectors of the economy.

The occupational standards for the publishing industry were originally developed by The Publishing Training Centre under the auspices of the now-defunct Publishing National Training Organisation. Similar separate development took place covering periodicals and newspapers.

The standards were comprehensively rewritten in 2011–12 under the auspices of Creative Skillset, and the new standards can be accessed by visiting