Essential Skills

Employers often look for a range of less job-specific skills and qualities in the people they hire.  Essential Skills are the skills needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine Essential Skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways and at different levels of complexity.

There are nine Essential Skills:

  • Reading Text
  • Document Use
  • Numeracy
  • Writing
  • Oral Communication
  • Working with Others
  • Continuous Learning
  • Thinking Skills
  • Computer Use

Each skill is described in 5 levels of complexity. Complexity levels from 1 (basic tasks) to 4 or 5 (advanced tasks) are assigned to example tasks performed by a worker in a specific job. For example, a bricklayer and a travel agent both require the Essential Skill of writing to effectively do their respective jobs. However, the specific form and complexity of writing is different for each.

A bricklayer typically requires a level 2 of Writing as their job involves less complex writing tasks such as the revision of work orders, writing estimate sheets on the cost of materials or labour, and filling out simple forms (e.g. incident reports). However, a travel agent typically requires a level of 4 as they use a more complex writing style to complete such materials as magazine articles, and writing advertisements to market tours.

The Essential Skills website, which is linked below, is quite complex.  When using this tool, it is best to keep your job goal in mind.  By exploring your job goal and the Essential Skills required for the job, you can see many of the Essential Skills needed to perform this job.  Visit the Essential Skills website and print the description of your job goal.

You may wish to explore your Essential Skills levels using the Essential Skills Indicator. The Essential Skills Indicator is a series of short quizzes that will provide an indication of your skill strengths and areas that may require improvement.

List the skills for your job goal on the Skills Required for the Job Worksheet. There is an optional Essential Skills exercise in the following section.  This will help you to strengthen your awareness of your skills.

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