What do Essential Skills Levels mean?

Essential Skills are the skills needed for work, learning and life – like reading, communication and thinking skills, for example. There have been nine Essential Skills identified. Every job requires you use these skills in various ways.

Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC), since 1994, has surveyed more than 3000 Canadians in workplaces in all sectors and of all types and sizes of organizations. All were asked what workplace Essential Skills they felt were needed in order for workers to be most effective at their jobs.

Reading Text

reading different types of material such as notes, letters, memos, manuals, specifications, books, reports and journals.

Document Use

reading tables, graphs, lists, blueprints, drawings, signs, labels.


using numbers to perform calculating and estimating tasks such as handling cash, budgeting, measuring and analyzing.


doing tasks such as filling in forms, writing text and using computers to write.

Oral Communication

using verbal skills to exchange ideas and information with others.

Working With Others

doing tasks with partners or in a team.

Continuous Learning

the requirement of workers to participate in an ongoing process of acquiring skills and knowledge.

Thinking Skills

knowing how to problem solve, make decisions, plan and organize tasks, find information and make good use of memory.

Digital Technology

using a smart phone, social media, digital communication, operating equipment with new technology.