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by Denise Feltham

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) System is no stranger to career and work counsellors.  Used by HRSDC (Human Resource Skills Development Canada) to classify all the types of jobs that exist in Canada, it is often a referral source for career exploration and labour market research.  Yet, are we getting the most out of the NOC?


The Career Handbook section of the National Occupational Classification System provides detailed information on job functions as well as the skills required and interests that best match each type of job.  The NOC assesses job requirements in accordance with the following aptitudes:

§         general learning ability;

§         verbal ability;

§         numerical ability;

§         spatial perception;

§         form perception;

§         clerical perception;

§         motor coordination;

§         finger dexterity; and

§         manual dexterity.


General learning ability is the capacity to understand the purpose, function and roles of the job and to learn new tasks.  Verbal ability is the capacity to understand and use language, and to effectively communicate information and ideas.  Numerical ability is the capacity to perform arithmetic accurately and quickly.  Spatial perception is the capacity to perceive and visualize two or three dimensional objects and figures, and to perceive and understand the spatial relationships of moving objects.  Form perception is the capacity to perceive detail in pictures or graphs, and to discriminate between differences in shape, shading, width and length of objects or lines.  Clerical perception is the capacity to accurately perceive and identify differences in written and numerical details.  Motor coordination is the capacity to integrate the actions of eyes, hands and fingers to produce accurate, precise movements.  Finger dexterity is the capacity to effectively use the fingers to manipulate objects deftly and quickly.  Manual dexterity is the capacity to use the hands deftly and quickly to place or turn objects.


The NOC identifies five types of interests with respect to working style; namely, directive; innovative; methodical; objective; and social.


Individuals with a directive interest like to make decisions, take control of situations and lead others; plan and coordinate projects; and delegate tasks.  They are independent, self-directive and prefer to organize their own activities.  Individuals with an innovative interest like to analyze and explore issues; experiment with and develop creative solutions to problems; present information in new ways; and enjoy the challenge of the unexpected.  Individuals with a methodical interest like clearly defined rules, methods and procedures; routine; and completing one task or project before moving on to the next.  Individuals with an objective interest like working with tools, instruments or machinery to operate, repair or construct things; and understanding how things work.  Individuals with a social interest like interacting and cooperating with, serving or meeting the needs of others.


These interests are differentiated according to work with data, people or things; and are further broken down into job functions including:



Synthesizing, coordinating, analyzing, compiling, computing or copying



Negotiating, instructing, supervising, diverting, persuading or speaking


Setting up, precision working, controlling, driving, operating, manipulating, tending, feeding, off-bearing or handling


This type of analysis can provide significant insight into a client’s aptitudes and preferred working style, as well as how compatible their skills and interests are with any given job opportunity.  As an employment counsellor who works with people with disabilities, I have incorporated the NOC into a self assessment tool called D.I.C.E. (Disability Impact on Career/Employment), with interesting results.  After asking clients to rate themselves on a number of aptitudes and skills, I then ask them to select the types of NOC occupations they would be interested in.  What emerges is a pattern of abilities and preferred working style that correspond to their self-identified aptitudes and interests.  These results indicate that the NOC’s Career Handbook can be a beneficial addition to conventional vocational assessment tools in determining a client’s career interests and feasible employment goals.


The NOC is more than a four digit code.  It is also more than an occupational classification system.  Yet the effectiveness of this tool is dependent on the degree of skill and investment that we, as career practitioners, put into it.  So the next time the NOC knocks, let’s ask, “Who’s there?”

Denise Feltham is founder of D.I.C.E. Assessment & Employment Counselling Services. Denise is a person with an invisible disabillity who attained her Bachelor of Social Work degree with Honours from Ryerson University and is registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. She then obtained her Career and Work Counsellor diploma, with Honours, from George Brown College. Denise worked as a vocational assessment and employment counsellor with the YWCA Youth Are program for approximately three years, where she gained certification as a Life Skills Coach. Denise has also achieved publication of her article, “is a Driver’s License the New Barrier to Employment” in Contact Point’s Bulletin. E-mail . Site


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