Essential skills are basic abilities required in virtually all occupations. You may sometimes hear them referred to as employability skills or transferable skills because they are applied in most types of jobs.
In Canada, employers look to hire people who possess these skills, sometimes more than technical skills, because these make an employee work effectively, learn faster and fit well into a company.
These skills are also the foundation for learning all other skills, in work or in life. These help you improve and adapt to change.
The nine essential skills are:
- Reading skills: understanding text such as notes, letters, books, memos, manuals, journals, specifications, reports and regulations.
- Document use: information use which requires understanding spatial arrangement and meaning. For example, understanding and using maps, schematics, and labels.
- Numeracy: involves doing calculations, money math, budgeting, and accounting.
- Writing: filling out forms, communicating using memos, letters, emails, signages, etc.
- Oral communication: a part of this is listening and is vital for getting along in the workplace. It involves the ability to use speech to give and exchange thoughts and information.
- Working with others: involves sharing information, organizing, and collaborating.
- Thinking skills: involves problem solving, decision-making, critical thinking, job task planning and organization, significant use of memory and finding information.
- Computer use: involves the ability to operate computerized devices at work; also includes adapting to new computers and software.
- Continuous learning: involves knowing your learning style, how to acquire information, being flexible, progressing and improving yourself all the time.
The following video explains each skill and provides examples of how they are used in the workplace:
The 9 Essential Skills by Phyllis Mann of Workplace Education Manitoba.
If you are interested in further improving your essential skills, you can go to the Employment and Social Development Canada Literacy and Essential Skills page and access videos, podcasts and webinars. You can also take a free online assessment at the Build your Career with Essential Skills page to gauge how much you need to improve.
What are Essential Skills?
Match each example below with the correct essential skill used.
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- Question 1 of 9
Christine shared her opinion about the possible relocation of the office during the meeting.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 2 of 9
Lee double checks his time sheet to make sure he has the right number of hours before submitting it.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 3 of 9
Wen had a hard time choosing between 2 candidates for the sales position but in the end, he thinks he made the right choice.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 4 of 9
Lisa made sure she didn’t have any food in the lunchroom after reading the memo about clearing out food every Friday.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 5 of 9
Jon was able to install Skype onto the laptop without any assistance.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 6 of 9
Jin had to inform the rest of the staff about changes to the meeting on Friday via email.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 7 of 9
Dave was glad that he signed up for the writing workshop a few months ago. He now feels more confident in his writing skills.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 8 of 9
Carlos was able to replace the ink in the printer after reading the instructions in the printer manual.CorrectIncorrect
- Question 9 of 9
Manjit had a lot of fun planning the Christmas party with her co-workers.CorrectIncorrect
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