ESSENTIAL SKILLS PROVIDE YOU WITH the foundation for learning other skills and help you to evolve with your career.

Workplace Essential Skills are not technical skills, but the core skills you need to continue learning and to complete daily tasks and activities at work, such as computer skills, reading and math. You might be thinking this sounds very basic, but there are five levels for each Essential Skill and the more complex a task, the higher level the skill is assigned.

The level of Essential Skills required for most trades is as high or higher than it is for many white-collar jobs.
Skills Canada

Do you have the level of Essential Skills you need to succeed in your career?

Many people can be surprised to learn they don’t have the level of Essential Skills they need to succeed in the workplace. For example, many skilled trades, including carpenters and millwrights, require advanced math (numeracy) skills.

When you begin your apprenticeship, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the required level of Essential Skills necessary for your chosen career. If you begin your apprenticeship as a carpenter, for example, your instructor will assume you already know geometry – this is a foundation skill – and will only focus on teaching you the technical skills you require.

In the sections below you’ll find tools to help you assess and improve your Essential Skills.

People with Level 3 or higher Essential Skills find work a lot faster than people with Level 1 or Level 2 skills – 29 weeks faster. That’s more than seven months!
Industry Training Authority of British Columbia, "Why Essential Skills matter in the Trades"

What Essential Skills do you need for your career in construction?

The Essential Skills related to construction skilled trades are as follows:

Continuous Learning Improving your skills and knowledge on a regular ongoing basis
Decision Making Making a choice among options
Digital Technology Using computer applications or technical tools to operate machinery or to input/extract information
Document Use Reading and interpreting documents to extract information
Job Task Planning and Organizing Working independently to plan and organize daily tasks
Numeracy Working with numbers to perform calculations
Oral Communication Conveying or exchanging information verbally
Problem Solving Coming up with solutions to challenges
Reading Text Reading various types of documents of varying complexity
Significant Use of Memory Performing tasks that call upon greater memory use than most jobs
Thinking Skills Finding and evaluating information to make decisions, solve problems, and plan and organize job tasks
Working with Others Interacting with co-workers to get the job done
Writing Conveying ideas by writing text

To find out which Essential Skills apply specifically to the career you are interested in, check out the career profile(s) of your choice on the Career Finder page.

You can also Explore Careers by Essential Skills on the Job Bank website. Each career profile indicates what level (from 1 to 5) is required for specific tasks related to that career.

In Canada, about 28% of your earnings is directly related to your Essential Skills. Nothing else – not even education and experience – contributes as much to your income.
Industry Training Authority of British Columbia, "Why Essential Skills matter in the Trades"

Test your Essential Skills

Testing your Essential Skills can identify gaps that you can improve upon before starting your apprenticeship

There are many reasons why your Essential Skills may be lacking in some areas. Perhaps you’ve been out of school for a while and haven’t needed to use certain Essential Skills so you’ve forgotten them. Or maybe you just haven’t learned a specific Essential Skill yet. Whatever the reason, don’t think it has anything to do with how intelligent you are. Just know that you can improve them with a number of tools available to you. It’s never too late to learn!

And even if you already have experience in the trades, you could still have gaps in your Essential Skills, so it doesn’t hurt to do a self-assessment.

Self-Assessment Construction Workers Workbook
  • Skills Canada’s Essential Skills Mobile App – test your skills, compare results with friends, discuss answers with teachers, and discover the career that fits your skills best. Download for free at the App Store and Google play.
According to a study by three colleges, apprentices with the Essential Skills they need for their trade are 8 times more likely to pass their technical exams.
Industry Training Authority of British Columbia, "Why Essential Skills matter in the Trades"

Improve your Essential Skills

Improving your Essential Skills with these tools will help you to succeed in your chosen career.

Using Trades Math workbook

Plain Language for Construction workbook
Essential Skills Activities for Trades workbook

SkillPlan also has a number of generic tools that allow you to practice your numeracy, oral communication and general construction skills, for example, as well as a series on preparing for specific trades, such boilermaker, heavy equipment operator and ironworker, among others.

Next: How to Get Started


Essential Skills - Do You Measure Up?
Doing the job right means having the right Essential Skills “tools.”
Essential Skills - Skills Canada Saskatchewan
Writing - Essential Skills
Working with Others - Essential skills
Reading Text - Essential Skills
Oral Communication - Essential Skills
Thinking - Essential Skills
Document Use - Essential Skills
Digital Technology - Essential Skills
Continuous Learning - Essential Skills
Numeracy - Essential Skills
Essential Skills App
Get this mobile app and test your skills, compare results with friends, discuss answers with teachers, and discover the career that fits your skills best.