16 Essential Skills

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada, along with other national and international agencies, has identified and validated key literacy and essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every job and throughout daily life in different ways and at varying levels of complexity. Essential skills include the skills associated with literacy (i.e. reading, writing, document use and numeracy) but goes beyond to also include thinking skills, oral communication, computer use/digital skills, working with others and the skills associated with continuous learning. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to better prepare for, get and keep a job, and adapt and succeed at work (Government of Canada,  n.b.). [1]

 

Employment and Skills Development Canada has developed a series of resources to assist in assessing Essential Skills as well as job profiles indicating the essential skill levels required. These tools and the User Guide are available online and are downloadable. Further information is included in the appendix.

This user guide will help you understand and use the essential skills tools and resources available through Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC). The guide is designed mainly for those who support skills development in and/or for the workplace such as career counsellors, adult educators, trainers and facilitators. It can also be used by anyone interested in learning more about literacy and essential skills and how to use the tools (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2018). [2]

 

Understanding Essential Skills

The Government of Canada, in collaboration with national and international agencies, has identified and validated nine key skills that are used in nearly every job.

Reading

This refers to reading text that is in the form of sentences or paragraphs.

Writing

This includes writing texts, filling in forms and non-paper-based writing (e.g. typing on a computer).

Document use

This refers to tasks that involve information where words, numbers, icons or other visual elements are given meaning by their spatial arrangement (e.g. graphs, tables, drawings).

Numeracy

Numeracy refers to a person’s use of numbers and their ability to think in quantitative terms.

Computer use (also called digital skills)

Computer use looks at the variety and complexity of computer use required within a particular occupational group

Thinking

This skill involves six different types of cognitive functions: problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, job task planning and organizing, significant use of memory and finding information.

Oral communication

Oral communication pertains primarily to the ability of workers in an occupational group to use speech to give and exchange thoughts and information.

Working with others

This examines the extent to which employees work with others to carry out their tasks. For example, some jobs may require them to work co-operatively with others or to have the self-discipline to work alone.

Continuous learning

This skill pertains to the requirement for workers in an occupational group to participate in an ongoing process of acquiring skills and knowledge (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2018).


  1. Government of Canada. (n.d.). Canada - British Columbia Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities. Government of Canada. Retrieved February 8, 2018, frohttps://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/training-agreements/lma-disabilities/bc.html#h2.19 
  2. Employment and Social Development Canada. (2018, April 6). Making the tools work for you: A guide to using the essential skills tools and resources available through ESDC.Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/essential-skills/tools/guide-tools.html

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Essential Skills by Nicola Soles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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