A technical competency refers to a skill or area of knowledge used in the occupations of a specific industry. For example, a hotel concierge's knowledge of local events, venues, and services is a technical competency in the hospitality industry. Different fields of work emphasize different skills and thus require different technical competencies. Mastering the technical competencies of a field and occupation is important for a worker to become a skilled employee.
Technical Competencies vs. Core/Workplace Competencies
Technical competencies aren't the same as foundational competencies – basic skills that are required in any career field. Career One Stop, an information center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, identifies three levels of competencies that are needed before a worker can begin to build technical competencies. The most basic level includes personal effectiveness competencies, such as professionalism, interpersonal skills, dependability and reliability; these are the general attitudes of an effective worker. The next levels of foundational competencies are academic competencies, such as writing, math and basic computer skills, and workplace competencies, like teamwork, problem solving and organization. The competency model emphasizes that these basic skills are important in any industry and need to be developed before a worker can begin developing more specialized technical competencies.
Industry-wide technical competencies are skills needed by all employees within a specific field of work. Even if a worker does not directly use these competencies in her daily operations, being aware of them is an important part of being effective in the industry. For example, a worker in the hospitality industry will need expertise in customer service, quality assurance and hotel organization. Mastering industry-wide competencies allows a worker to move between different roles and positions within an industry while always having the basic skills she needs to succeed.
Industry-sector technical competencies develop on the industry-wide competencies of a field of work and represent the basic skills needed for working within a specific area of that field. Taking the hospitality example, industry-sector competencies might include guest services for custodial staff, operations for hotel management and hotel laws and regulations for legal staff. Industry-sector competencies are basic within the specific area of the industry where they are used, however. For instance, all employees who work in the restaurant industry's food production sector will need to be familiar with food preparation and safety.
Occupation-specific competencies are the highest level of technical competencies. These refer to the skills that are directly related to an employee's position in the industry. Occupation-specific competencies may be limited to a specific type of job – for example, glass blowing – or even limited to a specific company. Examples of occupation-specific competencies within the hotel industry might include communicating with foreign visitors, scheduling conventions in hotel spaces and providing information about local attractions to guests.
The Labor Department's model of technical competencies includes management competencies as an upper-level set of competencies within an industry. These competencies include knowledge of the industry and the entrepreneurship, work delegation and strategic planning needed for directing the large-scale operations of a company.