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Essential Skills

Essential Skills

The Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine key essential skills for the workplace.

What is an Essential Skill?

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.

The 9 Key Essential Skills


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 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.


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.


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. All workers must continue learning to keep or to grow with their jobs.


Reading refers to the ability to understand reading material in the form of sentences or paragraphs. We use this skill to scan for information, skim overall meaning, evaluate what we read and integrate information from multiple sources: forms and labels if they contain at least one paragraph; print and non-print media (for example, text on computer screens and microfiche); and paragraph-length text in charts, tables and graphs.


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 such as writing texts and writing in documents (for example, filling in forms) and/or non-paper- based writing (for example, typing on a computer).


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 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.


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.

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