Nine Essential Skills

The four Learn to Learn skills discussed previously are a part of a broader group of learning skills called the Nine Essential Skills. In order to excel at all of these, you must first have a strong foundation in the Learn to Learn skills.

The Nine Essential Skills were identified by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). Many years of growing literacy awareness, and countless campaigns and conferences opened Canada’s eyes to the impact of poor literacy skills in Canada’s workforce.

Possessing a good competency in each of these skills will support your goals as you move through your career. Read through the description of each of the following Nine Essential Skills and consider how you might use each on the job.


  1. Reading – the ability to understand written materials and learn from the content. Consider the need to read a specifications sheet or equipment manual.
  2. Writing – develop and communicate ideas with the use of words, numbers, or symbols. This could entail recording a process to refer to later or making a written request for information.
  3. Numeracy (math) – the use of numbers to solve problems and complete tasks. Examples would be taking measurements and calculating materials needed or preparing an estimate.
  4. Oral communication – using speech to express thoughts and ideas. This would include explaining ideas to a co-worker, leading a discussion, or asking questions to gain information.
  5. Working with others – collaborating with others to complete tasks or achieve a goal. Working in teams is often required on a large job (for example, installing a large piece of equipment).
  6. Computer use – using all forms of computer-based technology. This would include word processing, navigating the internet, or using trade-specific software to design a model.
  7. Continuous learning – participating in ongoing skills upgrading to improve your knowledge. This may be on-the-job training or a formal class to upgrade skills or acquire a new ticket. Learning is a lifelong process.
  8. Document use – finding, understanding, or entering information into a variety of documents. This entails completing a job application, reading a blueprint, or understanding information on labels or in charts.
  9. Thinking skills – finding and evaluating information to make informed decisions. You may be required to diagnose and solve a problem in a system. This takes all of the thinking skills listed below to resolve the issue.

The following list is a sub-set of the Thinking skills, which are used when resolving problems and creating solutions:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Job task planning and organization
  • Significant use of memory
  • Finding information


Strong Essential Skills Make Strong Apprentices

There is a strong link between Essential Skills training and success in Apprenticeship training. The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum completed a final report in 2007, which outlines exactly this. They analyzed Essential Skills initiatives in Apprenticeship across Canada to find out what works best, where there are gaps, and how Essential Skills improve ways of learning. The report can be found in the Resources section.

For more detail on Essential Skills, go to the Resources section.






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