Defining Essential Skills (2009)

Essential Skills, as researched and defined by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), are the skills needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change. The research included identification of nine Essential Skills, their definitions and the development of rating scales to measure the complexity levels of these skills when applied to tasks. The Essential Skills Research Project also developed a methodology to document the application of Essential Skills in Canadian occupations. This documentation uses a template known as an Essential Skills Profile.

Essential Skills research and development has focused on workplace applications, with limited focus on other contexts. This focus has led some to think of Essential Skills as connected only to the workplace although the overarching definition identifies these skills as needed for “work, learning and life.”

A review of essential skills definitions used in other jurisdictions was undertaken in this document to determine whether a plain-language, context-free approach to Essential Skills was readily available. A brief overview of the findings from other jurisdictions – international and provincial, followed by further HRSDC and Ontario Skills Passport information – is provided.

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Sandra Hennessey. Defining Essential Skills 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2022 <>
Sandra Hennessey (2009). Defining Essential Skills. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from
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