Essential Skills Materials

The nine Essential Skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life. The materials included in this bibliography are for educators, tutors, practitioners and anyone who is interested in general information about Essential Skills for adults. Every item on this list is available, either from the library or online. For additional information on the individual Essential Skills, refer to the computer use, continuous learning, document use, numeracy, oral communication, reading, thinking skills, working with others, and writing lists.

An Aboriginal Essential Skills journey: planting the seeds for growth.
Pam Tetarenko et al. New Westminster, BC: Douglas College, 2010.  Also available online at and
» This resource contains the materials for presenting a workshop on Essential Skills for Aboriginal participants. It is an attempt to make Essential Skills more relevant to Aboriginal peoples by incorporating an Aboriginal world view (themes, learning styles, contexts and experiences). It provides an overview of Essential Skills, a brief history of Essential Skills, a basic understanding of Essential Skills Assessment, an awareness of available Essential Skills tools and resources, some ideas for practical applications of Essential Skills in training, and an opportunity to practice Essential Skills. Both the facilitator guide and the participant workbook are included in the resource as the two books are intended to be used together.

Aboriginal workplace learning circles.
Elaine Cairns, Melanie Reinboldt & Sue Phillips. Calgary, AB: Further Education Society, 2012.
» Aboriginal workplace Learning Circles (AWLC) approach essential skills training at an introductory level in a workplace setting. The curriculum is designed for co-facilitation with a cultural knowledge holder and/or elder advisors, and includes 8 sessions based on an informal delivery model. Each session includes experiential activities. Includes the facilitator’s guide, facilitator’s information sheets, and participant handouts. This curriculum is developed with an Aboriginal focus, celebrating the unique skill set Aboriginal people bring to the workplace. Includes suggestions for partnering with Aboriginal communities.

Canadian Language Benchmarks/Essential Skills in the workplace. (Website)
Ottawa, ON: Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks, 2009-.
» This website bridges Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills to support successful integration of adult newcomers and immigrants into the workforce. Includes frameworks, research, resources and sample lesson plans. Information is written for instructors, trainers, and job analysts.

Connecting literacy and employment through Essential Skills series.
Karen Farrar & Tracy Buchkowsky. London, ON: Literacy Link South Central, 2011. Also available online at
• Essential skills to identify the job searcher: workbook one
• Essential skills to identify the job: workbook two
• Essential skills to research your occupation: workbook three
• Essential skills to search for jobs: workbook four
• Essential skills to market yourself with a resume and cover letter: workbook five
• Essential skills to market yourself at the interview: workbook six
• Essential skills to maintain employability: workbook seven
» This series of workbooks is designed for people who want to look for employment while strengthening their Essential Skills.

Embedding literacy and essential skills in workplace learning: breaking the solitudes. (Online)

Jay Derrick. Montreal, Quebec: The Centre for Literacy, 2012.
» This literature review explores the concept of embedded workplace literacy and essential skills education. It compares four models of how relevant learning activities are incorporated into the teaching and learning of other workplace skills and knowledge.

EmployAbility success!: Essential Skills at work. (Online)
Karen Farrar and Sheila Marshall. Walkerton, ON: QUILL Learning Network, 2011.
» This workbook provides opportunities to practice Essential Skills and shows how those skills are applied in the workplace.

ESI: Essential Skills Investigation. (DVD)
Essential Skills Guiding Team of the BC/Yukon AHRDA Region. BC/Yukon: Sto:lo Nation Human Resources Development, 2007.
» “ESI Agents are on a mission: To solve this deadly puzzle. What really happened to popular local Vancouver sports-caster, William Flynn? … Essential Skills help people to carry out different tasks, give them a starting point for learning other skills, and help them adjust to change. Join in with the investigators as they explore the nine Essential Skills; Reading Text, Document Use, Numeracy, Writing, Oral Communication, Working with Others, Thinking Skills, Computer Use and Continuous Learning to determine the guilty party!”

ESI: Essential Skills Investigation II. (Kit)
Essential Skills Guiding Team of the BC/Yukon AHRDA Region. BC/Yukon: Stol:lo Nation human resources development, 2007.
» This kit teaches students about workplace Essential Skills and important life skills. Kit contents include a facilitator’s guide, DVD, workbook guide, ESI cards, passport, and Essential Skills spinner. Intended to focus on the automotive industry but helpful for all adults.

ESI III: Essential Skills Investigation. (Kit)
Essential Skills Guiding Team of the BC/Yukon AHRDA Region. BC/Yukon: Stol:lo Nation human resources development, 2009.
» This kit teaches students about workplace Essential Skill and important life skills with a focus on continuous learning. Kit contents include 1 guide, 1 workbook, 1 DVD and 2 sets of cards.

Essential skills fact sheets. (Online)
Yellowknife, NT: Northwest Territories Literacy Council, 2010.
Available at
» This series of five fact sheets explains how the Essential Skills are used in different contexts: community, families, health, justice and workplace.

Essential skills for Aboriginal futures. (DVD)
Produced by Marion Wilson-Brown. New Westminster, BC: ACCESS, 2009.
» A program designed to help Aboriginal People gain valuable essential skills, which are the foundation for learning all other skills needed for work, learning and life. The ESAF staff work closely with employer partners to create and emphasize lesson plans specific to job requirements.

Essential skills for literacy practitioners: a guide and three workshops.
Robyn Cook-Ritchie, Karen Geraci, Marisa Mazzulla. London, ON: Literacy Link South Central, 2010. Also available at
» This guide provides a foundation for literacy practitioners to learn more about the Nine Essential Skills and the Essential Skill Profiles. Current best practices for integrating the Essential Skills into Literacy and Basic Skills programming have been identified in case studies. The appendices contain three workshops with facilitation guides, handouts, and handout answer keys. The three workshops are: The Plain Goods on Essential Skill, Integrating Essential Skills, Essential Skills and the Ontario Adult Literacy Curriculum.

Essential skills for personal success. (Book + 2 CDs)
Sheila Marshall. Timmins, ON: Literacy Network Northeast, 2010. Also available online at
» This curriculum provides students with information on basic life skills and opportunities to practice essential skills related to these themes. Authentic documents are included. The curriculum contains four modules with activities written for learners and is accompanied by practitioner guidelines. One CD contains the 4 modules, and one contains the practitioner’s guidelines. Topics include nutrition, housing, financial management, health literacy, relationships, transportation, and voting.

Essential skills interview assistant report wizard. (CD-ROM)
Gatineau, QC: Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, 2009.
» A customizable tool that will help you prepare to conduct interview sessions with job candidates by providing Essential skills-based assessment questions, identifying possible answers for each question, and providing tips on how to begin, conduct and end each interview. The guide can also help develop learning plans with employees by generating position reports, producing essential skills reports for specific positions, and giving tips on how to begin.

Essential Skills passport. (Online)
Gatineau, Quebec: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2009.
» A tool for personal career development that tracks Essential Skills, identifying strengths and areas for improvement. Intended to be reviewed and updated regularly.

Essential Skills profiles. (Online)
Ottawa, ON: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, continuously updated.
» This collection of over 350 Essential Skills profiles describes occupations, their most important essential skills for that occupation, examples of tasks applying essential skills, complexity ratings indicating the level of difficulty, the physical aspects of the job, and the attitudes workers feel are needed to do the job well.

Essential Skills training audit.
Terri Peters. Calgary, AB: Literacy Alberta, 2008.
» The essential skills training audit helps employers, administrators, workplace trainers, adult educators, employees and adult students identify the skills needed to improve productivity and provide greater personal and job satisfaction. It has three parts: one for employees or adult students, one for employers, and one for workplace trainers or adult educators. The checklists cover the nine Essential Skills.

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: the case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in Canada. (online)
Sarah Elaine Eaton. Calgary, AB: Eaton International Consulting, 2010.
Explores the differences and links between formal, non-formal and informal learning. Considers these three types of learning in the context of literacy, Essential Skills and the acquisition of second language. Includes examples of how each of the 3 types of learning occurs in each context.

Literacy and Essential Skills. (Website)
Ottawa, ON: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2011-
» This website has comprehensive information on Essential Skills, including definitions, Essential Skills profiles, tools and resources and funding.

Literacy and Essential Skills in Industrial Arts (LESIA).
Carrie Wakeford. Peterborough, ON: Literacy Ontario Central South, 2010. Also available online at
• Blacksmith and Essential Skills
• Jewellery making and Essential Skills
• Mosaics and Essential Skills
• Stained glass and Essential Skills
• Welding and Essential Skills
» This set of five industrial arts-based course include workplace Essential Skills and literacy instruction. Include student notes and facilitator’s guide.

Literacy and Essential Skills tools. (DVD)
Gatineau, Quebec: Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, 2009.
» A series of tools to help address literacy and essential skills challenges. The tools support learners, employers and practitioners in assessment, learning and training supports.

Literacy is not enough: 21st century fluencies for the digital age.
Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes, Andre Churches. Kelowna, BC: 21st Century Fluency Project, 2011.
» This book identifies skills that are needed for the 21st century: solution fluency, information fluency, creativity fluency, media fluency, collaboration fluency, and global digital citizenship) and explains them in detail. It introduces a framework for integrating these fluencies into a more traditional curriculum.

LLEO Essential Skills training. (CDs)
Kingston, ON: Literacy Link Eastern Ontario, 2005.
• Assessment tools in the workplace
• Call centre curriculum
• Experimental model for project development partnerships
• Food counter attendants curriculum
• Food processing curriculum
• Health care curriculum
• Hospitality curriculum
• Landscaping and ground maintenance curriculum
• Retail curriculum
• Skilled trades helpers & labourers curriculum
• Supported job search
» This set of CDs contain industry-specific curricula to assist practitioners in preparing literacy learners for pre-employment testing.

Marketing and selling essential skills : a guide for college & institute practitioners. (Online)
Ottawa, ON: Association of Canadian Community Colleges, 2007.
This Guide provides applications, case studies and strategies for effectively marketing and selling Essential Skills solutions to employers. Included are a collection of current Essential Skills resources, lessons learned and 10 key recommendations provided by Essential Skills practitioners working with employers in small, medium and large enterprises across Canada.

Opening doors: how to market your essential skills to employers: a facilitator’s guide for delivering this workshop. (CD-ROM)
Walkerton, ON: QUILL Learning Network, 2004.
» This comprehensive resource includes all the materials needed to deliver a workshop to adults who have employment goals. This resource is broken into five modules that help adults learn how to articulate and demonstrate to employers the essential skills they have will make them ideal candidates for entry-level positions: Highlighting Your Essential Skills in Employment Portfolios; Matching Your Essential Skills with the Right Job; Branding Your Image: resumes, cover letters and applications; Marketing Your Essential Skills in Person: Interviews and Hiring Tests; Marketing Your Essential Skills in the New Economy. Each module contains notes for the facilitator, suggested activities (individual and group), overheads and handouts.

Gatineau, Que.: Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, 2009.
» This is a personal career development tool to help people track their Essential Skills. It allows anyone to record skill strengths and identify areas for further improvement. It is intended to be reviewed and updated regularly.

Recognizing life’s work. (book + CD)
QUILL Learning Network. Walkerton, ON: QUILL Learning Network, 2010. Also available online at
» This practitioner toolkit aligns selected leisure and home activities against the Essential Skills framework. The aim was to demonstrate to learners that many of the skills they use in daily life can be transferred to certain occupations. The leisure activities profiled are: computers for personal use, crossword puzzles, entertaining/socializing, fishing, gardening, housecleaning, household financial management, household food management, household scheduling and organizing, pet care, playing board games/cards and reading for pleasure. Learning materials and other information are included to help build on skills and make the link to relevant jobs.

Relating Canadian language benchmarks to Essential Skills: a comparative framework.
Ottawa, ON: Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks, 2005.
» This framework stands as a comprehensive comparison of two national skills standards. It compares domain descriptions represented in the CLB 2000, and in the Reader’s Guide to Essential Skills Profiles. It is intended to assist practitioners in selecting Essential Skills resources and workplace materials that are relevant and accessible to newcomers and immigrants attending ESL and FSL classes.

Skills for life: Essential Skills and workplace literacy: final report.
Government of Canada, College of the Rockies, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 2005.
» This report is the outcome of the Skills of Life Conference, held in British Columbia. The conference provided stakeholders with the opportunity to learn about the potential of essential skills training in the workplace; the possibilities of implementing workplace learning; and the relationship between learning and economic development.

Spotlight on change: an Essential Skills upgrading program for women over 40.
Marianne Paul & Lindsay Kennedy. Waterloo-Wellington, ON: Project READ Literacy Network, 2010.
» The program outlined in this curriculum helps each participant better understand herself, including her skills, goals and community as they relate to finding work. A training program for women seeking employment. Designed to help participants increase Essential Skills and confidence so they can build employability skills. Written for facilitators, outlines learning progressions, and includes women-centred activities and hands-on worksheets for participants. Field tested in Ontario and British Columbia.

Understanding Essential Skills. (Online)
Yellowknife, NT: Northwest Territories Literacy Council, 2010.
» A concise introduction to the nine Essential Skills.

Workforce literacy essential skills: pilot project 2009 – 2011.
Ruth Derrick, Liz Robins, Suzanne Pederson, Nancy Watters. Victoria, BC: Literacy Victoria, 2011.
» This guide to creating a workforce literacy program is divided into sections: Introduction, Program model – lessons learned, Curriculum modules overview – Example of a group learning workshop — Numeracy skills — Resource lists — Program documents. It is the result of a two-year pilot project on delivering a workforce literacy and essential skills program in a community-based adult literacy organization, with corporate, knowledge and community partners, where services are offered at no cost to participants. The purpose is to support individuals at IALSS level 1 and 2 prepare for employment and successfully integrate into the workplace. The program includes support for learners during their probationary periods in the workplace. Separate sections are also available online in the NALD library.

A working guide to creating a cross-sectoral workplace Essential Skills training program. (Online)
Michael Berger. Chilliwack, BC: Chilliwack Learning Community Society, 2011.
» This manual outlines the process for developing a cross-sectoral workplace Essential Skills training program, using The Chilliwack Cross-Sector training project to illustrate the steps.

Workplace learning circles.
Elaine Cairns, Melanie Reinboldt & Sue Phillips. Calgary, AB: Further Education Society, 2012.
» Workplace Learning Circles (WLC) approach essential skills training at an introductory level for co-workers. The learning circle is a holistic approach which bring together learners from all backgrounds and literacy levels to share their ideas and skills, guide their own learning, and create new knowledge. The curriculum is designed for workplace settings and includes 8 sessions based on an informal delivery model. Each session includes experiential activities. Includes the facilitator’s guide, facilitator’s information sheets, and participant handouts.

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Last updated: October 2012