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ESCO applies the same definition of "skill" as the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). According to this "skill means the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems". They can be described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments).

While sometimes used as synonyms, the terms skill and competence can be distinguished according to their scope. The term skill refers typically to the use of methods or instruments in a particular setting and in relation to defined tasks. The term competence is broader and refers typically to the ability of a person - facing new situations and unforeseen challenges - to use and apply knowledge and skills in an independent and self-directed way.


Working as a "civil airline pilot" requires the competence to combine knowledge on "emergency procedures" and "equipment malfunctions" with skills on "reading position coordinates" and "following the air route". This application of knowledge and skills takes place in a partly unpredictable setting where technical and organisational problems occur on a daily basis and where solutions have to be immediately identified and applied – either by the pilot alone or through team-working (e.g. involving the cabin crew or the ground staff).

In ESCO, skills are part of the skills pillar.