Essential Skills

What is an Essential Skill?

Check out the Skills Canada Essential Skills video

An essential skill is a necessary developed ability or capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained efforts to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas, things, and/or people.

Why are these Skills “essential”?

Essential Skills are the skills that people need for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills.

Why are Essential Skills important to industry?

These skills are used in nearly every job and at different levels of complexity and they enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Essential Skills and the Trades

Good Essential Skills means you will understand and remember concepts introduced in technical training. The level of Essential Skills required for most trades is as high or higher that it is for many office jobs.

Essential skills are used in nearly every job and at different levels of complexity. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.  The following 9 skills have been identified and validated as key essential skills for the workplace.

NUMERACY

Numeracy refers to the workers’ use of numbers and their capability to think in quantitative terms.  We use this skill when doing numerical estimating, money math, scheduling or budgeting math and analyzing measurements or data.

ORAL COMMUNICATION

Oral Communication pertains primarily to the use of speech to give and exchange thoughts and information by workers in an occupational group. We use this skill to greet people, take messages, reassure, persuade, seek information and resolve conflicts.

WORKING WITH OTHERS

Examines the extent to which employees work with others to carry out their tasks.

We use this skill when we work as a member of a team or jointly with a partner, and when we engage in supervisory or leadership activities.

CONTINUOUS LEARNING

It examines the requirement for workers in an occupational group to participate in an ongoing process of acquiring skills and knowledge.  We use this skill when we learn as part of regular work or from co-workers and when we access training in the workplace or off-site.

Continuous Learning tests the hypothesis that more and more jobs require continuous upgrading and all workers must continue learning to keep or to grow with their jobs. If this is true, then the following will become Essential Skills:
•knowing how to learn;
•understanding one’s own learning style; and
•knowing how to gain access to a variety of materials, resources, and learning opportunities.

READING TEXT

Reading refers to the ability to understand reading material in the form of sentences or paragraphs.

It generally involves reading notes, letters, memos, manuals, specifications, regulations, books, reports or journals. We use this skill to scan for information, skim overall meaning, evaluate what we read and integrate information from multiple sources.

Reading includes:
•forms and labels if they contain at least one paragraph
•print and non-print media (for example, text on computer screens and    microfiche)
•paragraph-length text in charts, tables and graphs

WRITING

The ability to write text and documents; it also includes non paper-based writing such as typing on a computer. We use this skill when we organize, record, document, provide information to persuade, request information from others and justify a request.

Writing includes:
•writing texts and writing in documents (for example, filling in forms)

non-paper-based writing (for example, typing on a computer)

For example: Labourers in manufacturing jobs, such as in a paper mill plant, use writing skills. They may write changes on worksheets, such as recording the substitution of materials.

THINKING

Thinking is the ability to engage in the process of evaluating ideas or information to reach a rational decision.  Thinking differentiates between six different types of interconnected cognitive functions:
•problem solving;
•decision making;
•critical thinking;
•job task planning and organizing;
•significant use of memory; and
•finding information.

DOCUMENT USE

Document Use involves a variety of information displays in which words, numbers, icons, and other visual characteristics (eg. line, colour, shape) are given meaning by their spatial arrangement. We use this skill when we read and interpret graphs, charts, lists, tables, blueprints, schematics, drawings, signs, and labels.

Document Use includes:
•print and non-print media (for example, computer screen or microfiche documents, equipment gauges, clocks and flags);
•reading/interpreting and writing/completing/producing of documents, These two uses of documents often occur simultaneously as part of the same task, e.g., completing a form, checking off items on a list of tasks, plotting information on a graph, and entering information on an activity schedule.

For example: In the hospitality industry, line cooks use their document use skills when they read and enter data on the freezer temperature-recording chart or check off items and quantities on delivery checklists.

DIGITAL

Digital skills are those needed to understand and process information from digital sources, use digital systems, technical tools, and applications.  Digital sources and/or devices include cash registers, word processing software, and computers to send emails and create and modify spreadsheets.

In the trades and technology professions, people use digital skills to input, access, analyze, organize, measure, manufacture and communicate information and ideas using digital tools and other digital devices.

Trade helpers and labourers such as roofers, welders and carpenters need to use computer applications. For example, surveyor helpers use electronic field notebooks to complete topographical surveys, specifying details of sites to create computer-generated diagrams.

RESOURCES

Skills/Competences Canada Essential Skills Program  

Essential Skills Forum

Essential Skills Day Webcast