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Skills pillar

The skills pillar is one of the three pillars of ESCO.

Knowledge, skills and competences

The ESCO skills pillar, which is sometimes referred to as skills and competences pillar, applies a wide definition of skills. It contains not only skills, but knowledgeskills and competences.

In the skills pillar, ESCO distinguishes between i) skill/competence concepts and ii) knowledge concepts by indicating the skill type. There is however no distinction between skills and competences recorded in the ESCO skills pillar.

Content of the skills pillar

ESCO v1 contains about 13,500 knowledge, skills and competence concepts. Each of these concept comes with one preferred term and any number of non-preferred terms and hidden terms in each of the ESCO languages. It also includes an explanation of the concept in the form of descriptionscope note and definition.

The following list provides an overview of the metadata for ESCO knowledge, skill and competence concepts and relationships to other ESCO pillars:


Structure of the skills pillar

In 2019, following discussions with the ESCO Member States Working Group and the ESCO Maintenance Committee, the Commission, with the support of a group of experts, started the development of a hierarchy for the 13 485 skills and knowledge concepts of ESCO. The skill and knowledge hierarchy would enable users to search and retrieve the ESCO skill and knowledge concepts systematically for a variety of purposes and would support the matching of jobseekers with job vacancies. The ESCO skills hierarchy can also facilitate the mapping exercise foreseen in Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/1020 on the adoption and updating of the list of skills, competences and occupations of the European classification for the purpose of automated matching through the EURES common IT platform.

The ESCO skills and knowledge hierarchy is a single all-embracing hierarchical framework containing four distinct sub-classifications:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitudes & values
  • Language skills and knowledge


The developers of the ESCO hierarchy mapped the 332 Intermediate Work Activities (IWA) specified in US O*NET to the second level of the hierarchy. Most of the third level categories were created based on mapped IWAs that were used either singly or clustered to form level three categories.

The developers of the ESCO hierarchy used some of the groups of the Canadian glossary (this does not constitute an official Government of Canada classification of skills and knowledge, but are rather used as a tool for career exploration purposes) to develop the first and second layers of the hierarchy. The experts adapted the terms of the groups to ensure they cover the total number of the ESCO skills.

The ESCO skills hierarchy is in a continuous process of improvement.