Reference Groups

When developing ESCO, the Commission involved stakeholders by inviting them to Reference Groups. Between 2011 and 2015 each Reference Group advised the Commission on the development of content for a specific part of the ESCO classification.

Role and responsibilities

Reference Groups were Commission expert groups. They contributed to the development of content for the ESCO classification.

Sectoral Reference Groups focused on one sector of economic activity. The Cross-sector Reference Group is responsible for cross-sector skills and competences, cross-sectoral qualifications and other cross-sectoral aspects.


Sectoral Reference Groups consisted of experts for a specific sector of the economy. Members of the Cross-sector Reference Groups are experts for in employment and education, related standards and classifications and an up-to-date knowledge of relations between education and training and the labour market.

Members of Reference Groups had been appointed on the basis of their personal expertise and do not officially represent organisations or Member States. Stakeholders that were represented in Reference Groups include Social Partners, employment services, employers, professional associations, sector skills councils, education and training institutes, statistical offices and others.

Working methods

Based on the NACE classification, the Commission developed a list of 27 sectors of economic activities which all together reflect the European labour market. Each sectoral Reference Group covered one of the first 11 economic sectors from this list. For the remaining 16 sectors stakeholders contributed in an online expert consultation.

The Cross-sectoral Reference Group contributed by developing a thesaurus of cross-sectoral skills and competences that can be used to develop occupational profiles.

In ESCO documents, the sectoral Reference Groups are abbreviated as SREF. The Cross-sector Reference Group is abbreviated as CSREF.


The Commission services and the ESCO Board established the first three Reference Groups (Cross-sector Reference Group, sectoral Reference Group Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery and sectoral Reference Group Hospitality and Tourism) in 2011. In the course of 2012 four additional sectoral Reference Groups were established, in 2013 another five. All sectoral Reference Groups finished their work by 2015.

List of Reference Groups