Essential Skills

About 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 then enable people to evolve their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Essential Skills and the Trades

Good Essential Skills means you will understand and remember concepts introduced in techinical 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. The provice the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve their jobs and adapt to workplace change. The following 9 skills have been identified and validated as key essential skills for the workplace.

New Essential Skills Mobile App

Assessment Tool for Teachers and Students Features:

  • Profiles of over 40 different trade and technology careers.
  • Summary of the Nine Essential Skills for the workplace.
  • A comprehensive set of questions that can be completed on average in 15-20 minutes. Results are provided as a star rating link to careers in trade and technology sectors.
  • Social Media features for users to share their results with friends, teachers and parents. Students can post and compare their results to see how their friends are performing and progressing. Teachers can use the App as a classroom tool.
  • A link to the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) Office of Literacy and Essential skills with access to all the National Occupational Profiles. Results can be compared against the levels of complexity in the ESDC profiles for specific skilled trade careers.
  • A directory of all trade and technology schools and training facilities in Canada.

The Essential Skills Mobile App is designed for iPhone®, iPad® and iPod Touch® and android devices and is currently available free for download in the App Store and Google Play.

For more information regarding the Essential Skills, check out the Skills Canada website at Skills Canada

What are the Nine Essential Skills?


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.


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.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Great jobs...Great future!

“Find a trade or technology that you enjoy, give it your best and power through to get the satisfaction of a job well done.”

Jordon Enns

Carpenter, Robert Penner Construction

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