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Workplace Essential Skills

As an employer, you know the success of your business is tied to how well your employees can do their jobs; but some may lack the basic skills needed to succeed.

Providing essential skills training for your employees will not only improve their workplace skills, but can also benefit your business.

Employers who implement essential skills training programs may see benefits like enhanced safety records, a reduction in overtime costs and improved employee engagement.This tip will help you to understand workplace essential skills and learn about training for your employees.

What are the 9 essential skills?

The Government of Canada, together with national and international organizations, has identified 9 essential skills that are required in almost every job. The mastery of these skills may vary, but they form the building blocks for learning all other skills.

  • Reading—scanning, understanding, analyzing and summarizing written text.
  • Writing—using words and numbers to communicate information, provide analysis or make recommendations.
  • Document use—finding, understanding and filling out documents such as graphs, charts and forms.
  • Numeracy—using numbers in tasks such as measuring, converting to metric and developing budgets.
  • Computer use—using technologies like computers and cash registers for tasks like word processing, email and spreadsheets.
  • Thinking—problem solving, prioritizing actions, decision making, finding, organizing and evaluating information.
  • Oral communication—using speech to convey thoughts and information in tasks like delivering messages and explaining problems.
  • Working with others—working with supervisors or members of a team to complete tasks.
  • Continuous learning—the lifelong process of acquiring new skills and knowledge, whether on the job, through self-study or by taking formal courses.

Why should I provide essential skills training in my workplace?

According to the Government of Alberta report Living Literacy: A Literacy Framework for Alberta’s Next Generation Economy, as much as 40% of Albertans 16 years of age and older struggle with their ability to understand and use information from news stories and instruction manuals.

As an employer, you may have experienced a lack of essential skills—from reading to oral communication—as the underlying cause of employees' high error rates, poor safety records, lower-than-expected productivity, and supervisor and employer frustration.

Training your employees on essential skills can help you avoid these problems.

Who provides essential skills training?

Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society (AWES) works with large and small employers to improve productivity and workplace capacity through essential skills training. AWES conducts needs assessments and assists with the implementation and evaluation of essential skills training in the workplace.

Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) offers assessments, curriculum and training support for employers. TOWES focuses on 3 essential skills: reading, document use and numeracy.

Where can I get funding for essential skills training?

Funding may be available to your business to implement workplace essential skills training. Here are a few of the grants available:

  • You may qualify for essential skills training assistance through Alberta Community and Social Services' Workplace Essential Skills Training Program. Employers must partner with a training provider and submit an application to an Alberta Supports Centre. The program is designed to help eligible employers who lack the capacity to deal with workplace essential skill issues on their own.
  • Grants of up to $10,000 for employee skills upgrading are available through the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, which is administered at a provincial and territorial level. 
  • The federal Office of Literacy and Essential Skills funds some initiatives. Check the website to see if you are eligible to apply for funding.


As an employer, you can benefit by offering workplace essential skills training to your employees. You can implement essential skills training in your workplace to improve your employees’ performance, and they will benefit from those skills throughout their careers and personal lives.

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