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Transferable Skills Analysis Defined


A great source of confusion in the vocational industry is the lack of a standardized definition of "transferable skills". The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a definition that is a national standard. It is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations [20 CFR 404.1568(d)]. SSA slightly revised this definition in the year 2000, but otherwise has set and followed this definition since 1980 as it adjudicates 2-3 million disability claims annually. SkillTRAN is unaware of any other federal definition of transferable skills.

(d) Skills that can be used in other work (transferability) 

(1) What we mean by transferable skills. We consider you to have skills that can be used in other jobs when the skilled or semi-skilled work activities you did in past work can be used to meet the requirements of skilled or semi-skilled work activities of other jobs or kinds of work. This depends largely on the similarity of occupationally significant work activities among different jobs. 

(2) How we determine skills that can be transferred to other jobs. 

Transferability is most probable and meaningful among jobs in which - 

(i) The same or a lesser degree of skill is required; 

(ii) The same or similar tools and machines are used; and 

(iii) The same or similar raw materials, products, processes, or services are involved. 

(3) Degrees of transferability. There are degrees of transferability of skills ranging from very close similarities to remote and incidental similarities among jobs. A complete similarity of all three factors is not necessary for transferability. However, when skills are so specialized or have been acquired in such an isolated vocational setting (like many jobs in mining, agriculture, or fishing) that they are not readily usable in other industries, jobs, and work settings, we consider that they are not transferable.

In October 2014, SSA issued POMS DI 25015.017 to lay out procedures for SSA employees to follow for performing a Transferable Skills Analysis (TSA). Section D, Step 4 outlines five ways to search using codes from past work history, including GOE codes, MPSMS codes, Work Fields, Occupational Group Arrangements (OGA), and Industry Designation.

SkillTRAN does not believe that three of these five methods meet the requirements of the CFR definition. SkillTRAN President Jeff Truthan published a paper in 1989 highlighting the lack of homogeneity among different code systems. The three key elements of transferability require the use of Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP), Work Fields, and MPSMS.

  • GOE Codes were designed for the purpose of grouping occupations by common interests. Interests are not skills. Having an interest in something is not equivalent to having the skills to perform an occupation sharing that interest code. The primary purpose of the GOE was for career and occupational exploration. Internal SkillTRAN research shows that GOE codes contain multiple Work Fields, so that they are not homogeneous in shared work activities.
  • Occupational Group Arrangements (OGA) are the first three numbers of the DOT code. The purpose of the OGA system is to group similar occupations together. Searching using this method was traditionally used for a long time prior to computerization because the printed books were indexed this way. It made seaching more logical (and possible). However, careful examination of the Work Fields and MPSMS codes in OGA groups (internal studies by SkillTRAN) have shown no fewer than 3 different Work Fields per OGA, despite how homogeneous sounding the occupations in an OGA might be. Searching by Work Fields and MPSMS codes cuts across the OGA groups to yield better matches than OGA alone.
  • Industry Designations used in the DOT are poorly done. Some industry designations (such as "Professional & Kindred", "Clerical", "Any Industry") are not industry groupings at all ... they are occupational groupings more than industry groupings. It would have been better if the DOT had been reported in Standard Industry Classification (now North American Industry Classification System) codes. Experience alone in an industry, even ones that are fairly distinct and well defined, is not a suitable way to describe the skill needed by a worker to perform specific work tasks. It may help with placement during job search, but it does not help discern transferablity of skills.

The SkillTRAN Process for Transferable Skills Analysis

The SkillTRAN analysis of transferable skills uses WORK field codes and MPSMS codes. In addition, the amount of training and/or experience (SVP - Specific Vocational Preparation typically required for each WORK field) is considered in the analysis. These codes are fully described in the DOL's Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs, 1991 (RHAJ). SkillTRAN has scanned this entire publication and is presenting it chapter by chapter for easy, quick reference.

In the SkillTRAN transferability of skills analysis, SkillTRAN uses the following worker and occupational characteristic codes:

  • 2(i) Skill level is implied by the SVP for the WORK fields - RHAJ Chapter 8
  • 2(ii) Work activities, tools and machines are key components of WORK fields- RHAJ Chapter 4
  • 2(iii) Raw materials, products, processes, or services are reflected in MPSMS codes - RHAJ Chapter 5

SkillTRAN implements its transferability analysis as follows:

Directly Transferable Occupations share at least one of the three digit WORK fields known from each job of the past work history AND have at least one of the same three digit MPSMS codes from any of those jobs done in the past. Directly transferable occupations have primary job duties that are very similar to past work. Little or no learning of job duties is anticipated.

Closely Transferable Occupations are in combination WORK fields (which involve multiple work technologies) AND have at least one of the same three digit MPSMS codes from past work history. Some learning of a few job duties may be anticipated.

Generally Transferable Occupations share at least one of the two digit WORK fields from the past work history AND have at least one of the two digit MPSMS fields from the past. Two digit coding by WORK and MPSMS clusters occupations into generally related groups that may not share the same specific skills as developed in the past. Some learning of essential job duties is likely to be necessary.

Directly Related Occupations share at least one of the three digit WORK fields known from the past work history but could involve any kind of MPSMS. Some moderate to significant on-the-job training can be anticipated. Formal training may be necessary for some occupations.

Generally Related Occupations share at least one of the two digit WORK fields known from the past work history but could involve any kind of MPSMS. Significant on-the-job or formal training can be anticipated.

Unskilled Occupations (SVP = 1 or 2) can be learned within 30 days and require no previous occupational experience. There are a total of 3,125 unskilled occupations in the DOT. 


SkillTRAN uses the maximum level of SVP associated with each WORK field. Per SSA definition Part (a), SkillTRAN does not consider occupations with an SVP < 3 to be transferable. An SVP of 1 or 2 is considered to be an unskilled occupation, which falls outside the SSA definition of transferability. SkillTRAN does commingle WORK and MPSMS fields in its classic online services, often enabling the identification of a more broad range of occupational options. The OASYS software allows the user to choose specific Work Fields in a Combination Work Field.  In PPS and PREPOST TSA searches, the software assumes that the worker is capable of all Physical Demand factors and can tolerate all Environmental Conditions unless otherwise noted. Occupations are not found transferable if the GED-RML level or Aptitude levels are exceeded. Temperament conditions can also be ruled out if indicated by the user.

SkillTRAN recommends beginning with Directly Transferable search options. If few or no occupations are found, SEARCH AGAIN and choose Generally Transferable, then Directly Related, etc. until the search produces enough occupations to consider. All searches are done in a few seconds. In the classic online services, the report reflects a summary of the results of each search, even if you choose not to include the list of selected titles from each search. In OASYS, the report reflects occupational choices remaining from the most recent search by RFC. After any search, labor market information (long term occupational projections, wages, employment numbers, and employer listings for Labor Market Survey or Job Search) is available for secure retrieval. In OASYS, searches are similar to the online labels but use the terms: Closest, Good, Fair, and Potential for resulting matches. See this chart to compare the systems.  Note that as the searches become more generalized, the likely need for training/re-training increases.

The SkillTRAN Placement Planning Service (PPS) and OASYS PC software have other types of searches available to further broaden the search for potential occupations. Users can explore other occupations that might share similar or new GOE Interest codes from past work history, Industry Codes, or other code systems. Many new occupations are suggested when using other code systems. However, these different search methods often introduce occupations with entirely new WORK and MPSMS fields. Therefore, while these occupations may indeed be possible to perform with additional training, they are often considered outside of the strict SSA definition of transferability.

The SkillTRAN PREPOST service (Pre-Injury/Post-Injury Analysis) and OASYS Prepost performs 8 TSA searches simultaneously. No alternate search strategies are available in PREPOST searches. However, in PREPOST,  PPS, OccuBrowse+® and OASYS, it is possible to "Compare the Worker Profile to an Intended Vocational Goal". This feature points out only the differences between the intended occupation's requirements and the worker's post-injury profile. It is useful to determine if an occupational idea is possible, within reasonable variance from the typical requirements, or perhaps could be modified through training or some kind of accommodation. It is also helpful to understand why a particular occupation was filtered out of a search list since it lists the areas of mismatch as well.

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