Skills Canada NL

Essential Skills


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.

The Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated 9 key essential skills for the workplace. What are the 9 Essential Skills? Numeracy, Oral Communication, Working with Others, Continuous Learning, Reading Text, Writing, Thinking, Document Use, Digital.

View Essential Skills video playlist.

What are the 9 Essential Skills?


1. Numeracy

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.


2. Oral Communication

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.


3. Working with Others

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. 


4. 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;

• knowing how to gain access to a variety of materials, resources, and learning opportunities.


5. Reading Text

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.


6. Writing

• 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.


7. Thinking

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


8. Document Use 

• 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.


9. 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.