The context for SFIA

SFIA is industry and business led and at its core is experience. Skills are attained at a particular level due to the practice of that skill, at that level, in a real-world situation. The context for SFIA is, therefore, the real-world environment in which industry and business operate.

In most organisations, any description of professional capability, whether as part of a job description or an assessment of an individual, will include a number of different aspects.  The diagram, below, illustrates the context for the different aspects that contribute to capability.

Keyhole diagram


At the centre of SFIA is experience: an individual has a skill at a particular level because that skill at that level, has been practised in a real-world situation.

  • Experience demonstrates the ability to apply knowledge and achieve outcomes in a practical environment.
  • The description of skills within SFIA, at different levels, relate to the experience demonstrated by individuals at that level.

Professional skills

SFIA defines professional skills aligned to levels of responsibility.


Behaviours, sometimes known as social skills, are essential components of capability. As such, behaviours are included in the overall SFIA framework.

  • But, crucially, SFIA recognisies that, in the workplace, behaviours are likely to be highly contextual and culturally specific.
  • Many organisations define their own set of behaviours that are used internally; these are sometimes described as corporate values and vary considerably from one organisation to another but SFIA can complement them effectively.
  • Some organisations use SFIA's generic attributes to describe behaviours. The SFIA levels of responsibility include many behavioural factors, such as influencing, analytical thinking, delegation, oral and written communication, and presentation skills.


Knowledge is a critical component of competence and this is recognised by SFIA. To be competent and effective in any role an individual will need a mix of generic, specific and domain knowledge.

  • Technologies, products, methods, approaches, legislation, services, processes and domain specifics are all examples of where professionals working in the industry are required to have knowledge.
  • Knowledge can be obtained in different ways such as formal training courses, on-the-job training or simply by working with, and mentored by, experienced practitioners.
  • Knowledge may be recognised by formal qualifications or certifications and an increasing number of university courses, training courses, events and other mechanisms for gaining knowledge, have been mapped to SFIA to ensure they align with the required professional skills. This approach enhances the employability of students attaining these qualifications.

Qualifications and certifications

Qualifications and Certifications are an important part of the industry.  SFIA recognises the value of qualifications and certifications and provides a context for positioning them within the skills needed by industry and business.  Qualifications and certifications show that an individual has successfully completed some testing or assessment – a great many of these demonstrate textbook knowledge recall of a particular subject area, some demonstrate understanding, and some confirm application of skills.

  • The mapping of qualifications to SFIA communicates to potential applicants the usefulness and relevance of the qualification.
  • The learning objectives can be matched to continual professional development (CPD) targets expressed in SFIA terms.
  • The use of SFIA by awarding bodies, to establish whether an individual meets the required level, is also growing and is increasingly linked to demonstration of experience.