Essential Skills - Where Do I Start?

Terri Peters, tlp training

0 0 15 December 2015

Interesting fact – all 5 of the CALP regions listed Essential Skills (ES) as one of their top professional development needs.

So, if you’re new to Essential Skills, you might not know where to start. Let me guide you…

Your primary source for all things Essential Skills is the Government of Canada, who began the research for the ES way back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. They sent out a group of trained interviewers to talk to hundreds and hundreds of competent workers across Canada so that they could pinpoint what the essential skills actually are.

From that research, the Essential Skills framework was developed. Here’s the link to the framework:

So, you’re on that page and you’re not sure what to look at first. Here are my suggestions for “mining” the content for your own purposes:

  • Not sure of the definitions for the Essential Skills or what complexity levels are?

Click on Understanding Essential Skills (this is a short read, 5- 10 minutes)

  • Want to read up on the whole framework, but not have to know every detail?

Click on Essential Skills Profiles and then scroll down that page to Guide to essential skills profiles (for users) (this takes a bit longer to read, 10 – 15 minutes)

  • Want to read up on the whole framework and know exactly what all of the complexity level descriptions are?

Click on Essential Skills Profiles and then scroll down that page to Reader’s guide to essential skills profiles (for developers) (make a coffee and settle in, this is a long read)

  • Want to find some Essential Skills assessment tools that you can use with learners?

Click on Tools and Resources, and then on the Job Seekers and Workers.
You'll find online assessments and documents you can print off, as well as ES self-assessments

  • Working with learners in the trades who want to upgrade their Essential Skills?

Click on Tools and Resources and then the Apprentices and Tradespersons tab on that screen.
You’ll see sample tasks that show how the ES are used in those professions and on-the-job stories that describe how the ES are embedded in these tradespeople’s daily work

There are also over 350 Essential Skills Job Profiles available online at the Job Bank website:

These profiles describe the Essential Skills and complexity levels for workplace tasks in over 350 jobs.

How can you use these profiles as a CALP?

  • To help learners with goal-setting if they currently work in one of the jobs listed, or want to apply for a particular job.
  • For employment counselling, if that’s part of the work you do.
  • As a reading text for teaching adult literacy or English language learners. (Hint: You can print off the profile from the website, just make sure you click on “Expand All” near the top right corner of the screen before you print.)
  • As a computer use exercise to teach learners basic website navigation skills and how to use drop-down menus.
  • For helping learners with resume or cover letter writing. The profiles describe the skills and tasks people can perform in the jobs listed, so learners can take key words from the profiles to describe their own abilities in their resumes or cover letters.

So, there’s a wealth of knowledge just between these two websites. Spend some time and browse around. You’ll be surprised at how many tools and resources align with your goals for helping the adult learners in your community.

In a few weeks, my next blog will introduce you to a few Canadian websites that have Essential Skills activities you can use in your programs.

Until next time - happy Essential Skills hunting!

Terri Peters
Regional Support Staff
Southern Alberta


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