Essential Skills

Skills such as reading, numeracy, document use and working with others are essential for you to succeed in apprenticeship training and in the workplace.

Learn about essential skills and how they are used in the trades. Find out what essential skills you need for your trade, identify your strengths and improve your skills.

What are “Essential Skills”?

Essential skills are the skills needed for work, learning and life. They are used in nearly every job and at different levels of complexity.

There are nine essential skills.

  • Read written materials such as emails, memos, manuals and reports
  • Analyze and integrate information from multiple sources
Document Use
  • Understand and enter information in documents such as charts, graphs, pay stubs, gauges, blueprints and schedules
  • Create and read schematic drawings
Numeracy (Math)
  • Take measurements, and make calculations and estimates
  • Perform scheduling, budgeting or accounting
  • Write with a clear purpose such as to inform or request information
  • Use appropriate sentence structure, punctuation, wording and tone
Oral Communication
  • Communicate information clearly and concisely
  • Speak comfortably with clients and supervisors
Working with Others
  • Coordinate work and share information with others
  • Participate actively in group projects and team meetings
  • Organize work effectively to meet quality standards and deadlines
  • Consider all relevant factors before making a decision
Digital Technology
  • Use email to send and receive information
  • Use company-specific software such as financial or design programs
Continuous Learning
  • Seek out learning opportunities
  • Participate in various forms of training (e.g. courses, on-the-job) and apply learning at work

Essential Skills Tools for the Skilled Trades

You can use practical guides, checklists and worksheets to help you recognize your strengths, develop a plan and improve your skills. You can complete them on your own or with the help of an employer or training instructor.

Learn How Essential Skills are used in the Trades

What are Essential Skills for the Trades?

A fact sheet that outlines how the nine essential skills are used in the trades. It includes definitions, common tasks and examples of how each skill is used in various trades.

Essential Skills for Success in the Trades

Booklets that provide sample tasks that demonstrate how each essential skill is used within a specific trade. They are currently available for the following Red Seal trades.

On the Job Stories

A resource that describes a typical workday for a tradesperson and provides practical activities that use essential skills. This tool is currently available for the following Red Seal trades.

For more information on how essential skills are used in different trades, view the Essential Skills Profiles or look at the National Occupational Analysis (NOA) for an essential skills summary.

Know Your Strengths and Areas for Improvement

Essential Skills Self-Assessment for the Trades

A checklist to help you identify your essential skills strengths and areas for improvement. It includes statements that describe common trades-related tasks for the nine essential skills.

Essential Skills Workbook for the Trades, with Answer Guide

A workbook with practical exercises to help you practice your reading, writing, numeracy and document use skills. An answer guide is included to help you understand the steps to reach the right answer.

Make a Plan and Improve your Essential Skills

Before Training: Resources to Improve Your Essential Skills

This booklet includes tips and activities to help you identify ways to improve your essential skills and be better prepared for training.

Essential Skills for Your Apprenticeship Training

A booklet that includes tips and strategies to help you prepare for in-class training, take effective notes and understand and remember lessons.

Using Essential Skills: Preparing for Your Interprovincial Red Seal Exam

This guide provides you with tips and strategies to study and prepare for the Interprovincial Red Seal Exam.

Trades Math Workbook

A workbook with practical exercises to help you practice your numeracy skills and increase your success in an apprenticeship program.

Find Out More


For more information, visit the Essential Skills section of the Employment and Social Development Canada website.


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