What are essential skills?

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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. These help you improve and adapt to change.

The nine essential skills are:

  1. Reading skills: understanding text such as notes, letters, books, memos, manuals, journals, specifications, reports and regulations.
  2. Document use: information use which requires understanding spatial arrangement and meaning. For example, understanding and using maps, schematics, and labels.
  3. Numeracy: involves doing calculations, money math, budgeting, and accounting.
  4. Writing: filling out forms, communicating using memos, letters, emails, signages, etc.
  5. 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.
  6. Working with others: involves sharing information, organizing, and collaborating.
  7. Thinking skills: involves problem solving, decision-making, critical thinking, job task planning and organization, significant use of memory and finding information.
  8. Computer use: involves the ability to operate computerized devices at work; also includes adapting to new computers and software.
  9. 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 assess how much you need to improve.

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Community Resources

Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM) specializes on essential skills. You can contact WEM all over Manitoba for assessment and training or use their resources online (for learners and practitioners) to improve your skills. Try downloading their Learner Materials to prepare you for taking tests, navigating workplace documents or numeracy concepts. WEM also has Learning on Demand, which are modules you can use anytime and anywhere.

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Choose the appropriate essential skill most used in each example situation.

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