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The Specification of Competency Standards (SCS) sets out the skills, knowledge and competency standards required of the practitioners to perform various job functions in industries effectively. It serves as useful benchmarks and references for education and training by providers. It is also adopted by employers and human resources managers for the development of in-house training programmes, competency based job specifications, appraisal of staff performance and criteria for recruitment, among others. Besides, the SCS forms the basis for assessing and recognising the skills and experience acquired by practitioners under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) mechanism.  Based on the SCS, the Vocational Qualifications Pathway (VQP) may be charted to facilitate learners in drawing up their career development plans.

Generic skills, like industry-specific competencies, are essential to the effective performance of job functions by practitioners at the workplace. The Specification of Generic (Foundation) Competencies (SGC) developed under the QF covers four strands of generic skills: English, Chinese (including Cantonese and Putonghua), Information Technology and Numeracy. The SGC and the industry-specific SCS complement each other in the development of learning programmes relevant to industry needs.

The competency standards applicable to an industry are presented as "units of competency" in its SCS. Every "unit of competency" comprises eight basic items (i.e. Name, CodeLevel, Credit, Competency, Range, Assessment Criteria and Remarks).