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Bloggings: January 16, 2008

by Joel Stewart

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Joel Stewart's blog.

January 15, 2008

Take a Walk down SVP Lane

The great problem of the day for PERM practitioners is the convoluted interpretation of SVP that the DOL has used to establish training criteria on the O*Net. DOL replaced the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and its SVP standards, used successfully for half a century,  with the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), a less reliable standard for measurement of training time, including education, training and experience.

The stated purpose of the SOC is to simplify the DOT which grew had grown to about 12740 job classifications to a smaller number of approximately 822 occupational typtes. Wikipedia has a brief but convenient definition of the SOC:

The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System is a US government system of classifying occupations. It was developed in response to a growing need for a universal occupational classification system. Such a classification system would allow government agencies and private industry to produce comparable data. Users of occupational data include government program managers, industrial and labor relations practitioners, students considering career training, job seekers, vocational training schools, and employers wishing to set salary scales or locate a new plant. It will be used by all federal agencies collecting occupational data, providing a means to compare occupational data across agencies. It is designed to cover all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit, reflecting the current occupational structure in the United States. The USA's SOC includes 822 occupational types. The national variants of the SOC are used by the governments of the UK, Canada, and many othersational structure in the United States. The USA's SOC includes 822 occupational types. The national variants of the SOC are used by the governments of the UK, Canada, and many others.

The DOL uses an internet based interface called the O*Net to display the SOC to the public. Part of the SOC includes the SVP for each job. As almost everyone knows, the SVP is the specific vocational training time appropriate for a given job. The SVP has also been overhauled, and to everyone's dismay the training time has been downgraded for most jobs. The method by which the SVP was changed in the move from DOT to SOC, surreptitiously as it were, is the subject for another day, however, some examples arose recently in my conversations with practitioners.

One of the most ubiquitous job title in labor certification practice has been that of "Project Manager" (DOT 189.117-030).  Note that under the DOT, the job of Project Manager (synonymous with Project Director) commanded the highest SVP ("8"), which permitted up to 10 years SVP (specific vocational preparation consisting of any combination of education, training and experience). The DOT version of the job duties is the following:

Plans, directs, and coordinates activities of designated project to ensure that goals or objectives of project are accomplished within prescribed time frame and funding parameters: Reviews project proposal or plan to determine time frame, funding limitations, procedures for accomplishing project, staffing requirements, and allotment of available resources to various phases of project. Establishes work plan and staffing for each phase of project, and arranges for recruitment or assignment of project personnel. Confers with project staff to outline workplan and to assign duties, responsibilities, and scope of authority. Directs and coordinates activities of project personnel to ensure project progresses on schedule and within prescribed budget. Reviews status reports prepared by project personnel and modifies schedules or plans as required. Prepares project reports for management, client, or others. Confers with project personnel to provide technical advice and to resolve problems.

To arrive at the SOC job that corresponds, the crosswalk tool on the O*Net is used. However, the current crosswalk tells us that the SOC version is 11-9199.99 - "Managers, All Other" and that "All Other" titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics which do not fit into one of the detailed O*NET-SOC occupations. O*NET data is not available for this type of title.

Perhaps the nearest fit for "Project Manager" is "General and Operations Managers" SOC/O*Net 11-1021.00:

Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of companies or public and private sector organizations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources, but are too diverse and general in nature to be classified in any one functional area of management or administration, such as personnel, purchasing, or administrative services. Includes owners and managers who head small business establishments whose duties are primarily managerial.

However, this group of managers is relegated to SVP 7, permitting only four years of SVP. This means that if a Master's Degree is required, no experience may be required; or if a Bachelor's Degree is required, only two years of experience may be required.

Note that management occupations may be searched as a group on the O*Net. There are 42 jobs listed in the management group. Of these jobs, the SVP varies from 3-5. Jobs like farm managers are SVP 3; business management jobs are usually SVP 4; and managers of financial and educational institutions have SVP 5.

Note that Computer and Information System Managers 11-3021 is SVP 5, and that many different job titles serve to describe the same occupation: Information Systems Director (IS Director), MIS Director (Management Information Systems Director), Information Technology Director (IT Director), Information Technology Manager (IT Manager), Data Processing Manager, Director of Application Development, Technical Services Manager, Director of Data Operations, Information Technology Systems Director (ITS Director), MIS Manager (Management Information Systems Manager).

In conclusion, we can not assume that SVP classifications that were true in the past continue to be true. Under the PERM rule, SVP is a whimsical concept that provides the public with an unreliable platform for labor certification processing.