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Time for Essential Skills: An Employer’s Guide This employer’s guide was created by Literacy Link South Central. We are a regional literacy network in Ontario, Canada that can help employers identify the Essential Skills that are used in their workplace.

We can help you to:

• Determine your workplace literacy and Essential Skills needs

• Connect with literacy and Essential Skills providers in your community

This employer guide is the result of a project called, “Connecting Literacy and Employment through Essential Skills.” This resource has been made for employers who want to know how to increase the effectiveness of their hiring process.

Literacy Link South Central


Phone: 519-681-7307


This project was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Office of Literacy and Essential Skills Literacy Link South Central is a partner in Employment Ontario

Content developed by Karen Farrar Design by Tracy Buchkowsky This employer guide is available for free download at You are welcome to make copies of this resource. Reproducing these materials for a profit is prohibited. All website links were accurate at the time of printing – May 2011. 2

Time for Essential Skills: About this Employer’s Guide (Read this brief introduction to learn how this Employer’s Guide will benefit you and your business.)

3 minutes Time for Essential Skills: An Employer’s Guide offers a quick and straight-forward introduction to three online tools that can help you to identify the skills that you require your employees to have – before you hire them. Many employers see the value of hiring and training based on the Essential Skills needed in their workplace. However, employers say that they don’t have the time to develop Essential Skills training or use existing tools that would help ensure that their employees have adequate skills. In fact, in the recent “Essential Skills in Canadian Workplaces” survey summary, employers cited “time” as the number one barrier to investing in Essential Skills training. But employers who have taken time to invest in Essential Skills training for their employees have said that their time was well spent. Improved Essential Skills result in:

Increased productivity

Improved safety

Improved employee retention

Reduced absenteeism

What are Essential Skills? They are the skills that everyone needs for work,

Skilled employees save employers time and money.

learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all

One of the best ways to save time is to hire employees who

other skills. Learn more about

already have the Essential Skills that your business needs.

Essential Skills in Section Three

Another way to save time is to hire from within. When

on page 10 of this guide.

employees have the required Essential Skills, they are more likely to seek promotion within an organization.


This Employer’s Guide

Takes into account your limited time. It has clearly labelled sections so that you can choose to read only the sections you need.

Introduces three online tools that can help you to identify the Essential Skills your employees will need for work.

Gives you the tools you need to develop an accurate job description.

Uses a small business case study so that you can immediately understand how the online tools apply.

Includes a table of Essential Skills websites for quick reference, where you can read what each website offers and why you might want to use it.

Provides time-saving steps so that you are able to quickly access the information you need from each website.

All this and you will spend no more than 15 minutes on each section. Do you have time for coffee? If so, then you have time for Essential Skills.



Section One Why Focus on Essential Skills? (What other employers in Canada are saying about Essential Skills.)

5 minutes What skills are you looking for when you hire a new employee? You are probably aware of the job-specific skills you would like your employee to have, but are there other skills you should be looking for? Consider this quote from an extensive Canadian workplace study: “More than nine in ten employers say that Essential Skills are very important for improving customer satisfaction, the overall success of the organization and improving the productivity of employees.” (Essential Skills in Canadian Workplaces, Final Report, EKOS Research Associates Inc., March 2007.)

This is what employers are saying. Essential Skills:

Improve customer satisfaction

Increase the overall success of your organization

Improve the productivity of employees 5

If Essential Skills do all of this, can you afford to hire a new employee who doesn’t have them? The effects of a lack of Essential Skills and other skills shortages are already being felt by employers. Read these facts from another recent study in British Columbia: According to the Coalition of BC Businesses, which represents over 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses in British Columbia, labour and skills shortages are already negatively affecting small businesses—and by extension, communities—in many parts of the province. Citing reports and anecdotal evidence, it points to the following signs of skills shortage:

Curtailed growth in goods and services

Reduced hours of operation

Missed new/expanded market opportunities

Reduced customer service

Reduced productivity

Burned out owners/managers and staff

(Fitzsimmons & McRae, 2007,, p. 9) An upfront modest investment of time enables you to learn about how to hire employees who have the Essential Skills needed to be productive in your workplace.



Section Two What Are Essential Skills? (Take a short quiz and find out.)

3 minutes Despite the fact that there have been numerous national and international studies that confirm the importance of Essential Skills in the workplace, a surprising number of employers still aren’t sure what they are. Challenge yourself! Take this short quiz to test your Essential Skills knowledge. 1.

How many Essential Skills are there? _____










In thirty seconds, name as many Essential Skills as you can.


Essential Skills are also known as:


The job-specific skills that are essential for technical work


The Velcro skills to which other skills stick


There are _________ levels of Essential Skills








Essential Skills are needed for


Training purposes


Home and community activities


All jobs


a, b and c

(Answers are on the next page.) 7

Answers 1.



Reading, document use, numeracy, writing, oral communication, working with others, thinking, computer use, continuous learning







Did you answer everything correctly? If so, you may choose to skip the next section, which briefly reviews the Essential Skills. If you weren’t able to answer all of the quiz questions correctly, don’t worry: most employers can’t. Just take a few minutes to learn about Essential Skills in the next section.



Section Three Essential Skills in Brief (Review the nine Essential Skills and read examples of how they are used in the workplace.)

10 minutes These nine Essential Skills are foundational for learning all other skills.

Essential Skill

1. Reading


Document Use


Workplace Example

Carpenters read project The ability to read and understand text in the form of specifications, installation manuals and notes on sentences and paragraphs. blueprints.

The ability to use charts, forms, graphs, labels, lists, signs, tables and similar materials.


Electricians read lists of worksite procedures, such as the voltage being used. They interpret drawings when installing, assembling or repairing electrical equipment.

Essential Skill

3. Numeracy


Workplace Example

Money Math – The use of math skills to make financial transactions, including handling cash, preparing bills, and making payments.

Hairstylists prepare bills and collect payments.

Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting – Planning and monitoring the use of time and money.

Hairstylists schedule appointments of varying lengths depending on what the customer needs to have done.

Measurement and Calculation – The ability to measure and calculate quantity, distance, area and volume.

Hairstylists measure amounts of colour solutions depending on hair length and thickness.

Data Analysis – The ability to Hairstylists compare collect and analyze numerical measurements of time, data. temperature and fluid volume to specifications outlined in product information sheets and colour charts so that they can control the outcomes of hair colouring treatments.


Essential Skill



5. Oral Communication


Workplace Example

The ability to write text on paper and electronically.

Millwrights write maintenance and repair procedures as well as incident reports that might describe malfunctions, accidents or breakdowns and identify potential causes and effects.

The ability to use speech to give and receive thoughts and information.

Plumbers talk to suppliers about the availability of parts. They talk to customers who may be upset and angry.

Cooks coordinate the sharing of workspace and equipment with co-workers. They demonstrate how to perform tasks to other workers.


Working with Others

The ability to work cooperatively with others to carry out tasks.


Continuous Learning

The ability to participate in Cooks learn by watching an ongoing process of gaining co-workers and by trying skills and knowledge. new recipes.


Essential Skill


Thinking Skills


Workplace Example

Job Task Planning and Organizing – The ability to plan and organize one’s work.

Construction Electricians organize their schedules around other workers and factors on the construction site.

Decision Making – The ability to make a decision by using appropriate information.

Construction Electricians decide how to route power, taking into account potential obstacles, customer specifications and code restrictions.

Problem Solving – The ability to identify and solve problems.

Construction Electricians seek advice from other experienced tradespersons, manufacturers’ representatives or engineers to solve technical problems.

Finding Information – The ability to use a variety of sources such as books, people and computer databases to find information.

Construction Electricians refer to the Canadian Electrical Code to find relevant information on installation specifications.

The ability to use computers and other technical tools, for example, fax machines and photocopiers.

Welders operate plasma cutting machines, orbital welders and other computercontrolled equipment.


Computer Use


Most jobs use several, if not all of the Essential Skills. The tasks are rated from level one (easiest) to level five (most complex). For example, a welder must have Document Use skills from level 1 through level 4. He or she should be able to:

Observe colours of pipes and lines in the workplace that indicate their contents, such as type of gas (level 1)

Read posted memos about safety concerns in the workplace (level 2)

Review notes on blueprints and/or welding procedures specifications (WPS) to

review messages from the engineering

department about materials and procedures (level 3)

Interpret and continually refer to diagrams and tables on blueprints, which may be

several pages long, to determine material requirements and measurements; the type,

size, location and starting position of welds; the welding process (e.g., flux core); and

other engineering requirements. Much of this

information is communicated via symbols and numbers. (level 4)

Are you wondering about the Essential Skills and skill levels used in your workplace? You can find this information in Human Resources and Skills Development Canada’s (HRSDC) Essential Skills Profiles. Find out more about the Profiles on pages 30-33 of this handbook.


Section Four Why Are Essential Skills Important to You, the Employer? (Read convincing evidence that you need employees with Essential Skills in your workplace.)

10 minutes Essential Skills are considered the most important foundational skills needed for work, learning and life ( It’s important for you, the employer to know about these skills because: Essential Skills are valid. They have been validated through research and interviews with over 4,000 workers, the Government of Canada and national and international experts. Research proves that these are the skills that your employees need on the job. Essential Skills are profitable. Employees with enough Essential Skills have a direct positive impact on your bottom line. A recent Conference Board of Canada study shows that Essential Skills are linked to:

Improved performance and cost savings

Enhanced worker development and


Improved products and customer service

Reduced error rates

Increased worker transferability, output, and retention

Increased customer retention

Higher profit

(From: “Strength from Within – Overcoming the Barriers to Workplace Literacy Development”, Conference Board of Canada, 2003)



Essential Skills are foundational. They provide the foundation to learn all other skills, including technical and job-specific skills. Employees with Essential Skills learn new work tasks more easily. Essential Skills have also been described as “Velcro” skills because all other skills, including job-specific skills, stick better when an employee has a strong foundation in Essential Skills. For example, consider a worker who operates a piece of machinery. Her job-specific skills might include: knowing how to turn the machine on and off, operating the machine, daily maintenance like cleaning and oiling, and basic troubleshooting. If this employee was hired based on having good Essential Skills, she would also be able to:

Read a manual on specific operations that are not often used

Accurately fill in a daily maintenance form

Write notes that describe a problem she is having with the machine

Work with others to help troubleshoot what the problem might be

Learn new maintenance techniques to improve the machine’s day-to-day operation

• Find and download manufacturer’s recent information that could have an impact on

the machine’s operation


Do you have an extra four minutes? Watch Literacy is Like Velcro on Go to Type Literacy is Like Velcro into the search bar. Click on this short video to watch. The literacy skills described in this short film are also Essential Skills.

As an employer, you can’t afford to assume that the people you’re interviewing have the Essential Skills needed for the job. What can you do to ensure that you are getting the best-skilled employee for your business?


Learn more about the specific Essential Skills needed in your workplace.


Create job profiles for your employees that include Essential Skills.


Know what to do and where to go if your employees need to build their Essential


Where can you find this information? It’s just a few clicks away on the Internet. Use the table in the next section as a reference tool to help you learn more about Essential Skills, create a job profile that includes Essential Skills, and know where to go to if your employees need further Essential Skills training.



Section Five Online Tools for Essential Skills Reference Table (Read about these websites that can help you during the hiring process.)

5 minutes Essential Skills Websites Website Information

When You Could Use It

The Human Resources and

Provides in-depth definitions

Use the definitions to increase

Skills Development Canada

of the Essential Skills.

your understanding of the

Website Name and Address

(HRSDC) website houses

Essential Skills.

many work-related websites.

Essential Skills Profiles, based

The Literacy and Essential

on National Occupation

Skills website is the official

Code (NOC) describe how

website relating to Essential

each of the key Essential

skills needed for different

Skills for Canada.

Skills is used by workers in a


particular occupation.

workplaceskills/LES/index. shtml

Provides tools and resources that are free to download.

Use the Essential Skill Profiles to: • Learn more about the

• Develop workplace training programs or job descriptions Use the tools for Employers and HR Professionals when you would like support for: Hiring and Interviews, Needs Assessments, and Learning and Training Supports.


Essential Skills Websites Website Name and Address

Website Information

When You Could Use It

The National Occupational

The National Occupational

Use the NOC for writing job

Classification is also housed

Classification (NOC) is

descriptions. Learn the NOC

on the HRSDC website

the nationally accepted

codes for each of the job reference on occupations in placeskills/noc/index.shtml

profiles in your organization.

Canada. It organizes more

Learn how to use NOC codes

than 30,000 job titles into

in job descriptions by reading

520 occupational group

the Employers’ Handbook.

descriptions. It is used

Written for smaller

to compile, analyze and

organizations, this Handbook

communicate information

provides information on one

about occupations, and to

of the key aspects of human

understand the jobs found

resources management: job

throughout Canada’s labour



This Handbook explains how:

The NOC is based on extensive occupational research and consultations conducted across the country, reflecting the evolution of the Canadian labour market.

• To write job descriptions adapted to your business needs • The National Occupational Classification (NOC) can help you to write job descriptions • To use the job descriptions for multiple HR-related tasks


Essential Skills Websites Website Name and Address

Website Information

When You Could Use It

Ontario Skills Passport

Very easy to use format. The

Use OSP Employer Tools

Ontario Skills Passport (OSP)

to create a job ad or job

provides clear descriptions of description. You can do this the Essential Skills and work

online and then print out the

habits needed on the job.

result. You might want to combine it with information from the NOC for a more detailed job profile.

The remaining sections of the guide use case studies to illustrate how the online tools can be used in the workplace. Following each case study, you are given the opportunity to use the same tool.


Section Six Case Study Part One (Read a case study that gives an example of how to use the Ontario Skills Passport website to aid in the hiring process.)

5 minutes Sheila Evans, co-owner of Grassroots Greenhouse, uses the Ontario Skills Passport website to create a skills-based job description of a greenhouse worker. Grassroots Greenhouse is a small business owned by Sheila and Chris Evans. They have built up the business from a roadside stand selling bedding plants to a busy year-round gardening centre. When they first hired an employee, three seasons ago, Sheila and Chris had no experience writing job ads, reading resumes or interviewing. Sheila decided to ask some advice from her friend, Bill, who owns a florist shop. “Bill, how many employees do you have?” asked Sheila. “Three,” said Bill. “One full-time and two part-time.” “I think I’ve dealt with all of them, and they’re all terrific. They give great customer service, and I never see them just hanging around when I walk in the store. How do you do it? Where do you find them?” Bill laughed. “Thanks for the feedback! It’s nice to hear that they are doing their jobs so well. I have three great employees now, but when I first started this business I had a lot to learn about hiring.”



“When I hired my first employee, I wanted to make sure that he or she knew everything there was to know about flowers and arrangements. So I hired a woman with over 20 years’ experience. She did fabulous arrangements.” “That sounds good,” said Sheila. “Not really,” said Bill. “Do you know what the most important skill is for a florist’s assistant?”

“Ummm…flower knowledge?” “No, not even close. It’s oral communication,” said Bill. “And Lucy, who did such fabulous arrangements, was terrible when it came to talking to customers. For her, the arrangement came first, not the customer.” “Oh, I see what you mean,” said Sheila. “What did you call it? Oral communication? I wonder if it’s the same for us?” “I don’t know, but I’ll give you an important tip: learn about Essential Skills.” “Pardon?” asked Sheila. “Essential Skills. Learn about them before you make any hiring decisions. I’ll email you some websites that will come in handy,” said Bill.

When Bill emailed Sheila, he sent her links to:

Ontario Skills Passport (OSP)

National Occupational Classification (NOC)

Essential Skills Profiles


In his email, Bill suggested that Sheila try the Ontario Skills Passport website first because it is simpler and clearer than the NOC and Essential Skill Profiles websites, although not as in-depth. Sheila tried the Ontario Skills Passport website first. Right away, Sheila noticed a section called Employer Tools. She clicked on this and discovered that one of the tools enabled her to create a job ad or job description. Sheila was able to find the job profile for a greenhouse worker and the NOC code: 8432. She selected the Work Habits that she thought were most important for her employees. She saw that she could select the most important Essential Skills for greenhouse workers. After reading about Essential Skills, Sheila wasn’t sure which were most important for a greenhouse employee. All of the skills were so‌Essential! By clicking on the NOC code and job title she was able to see which skills other greenhouse and nursery employers thought were most important.

Sheila was surprised because she thought Essential Skills would be the job-specific skills that are unique to greenhouse workers, but this was not the case. Essential Skills are: Reading

Working with Others

Document Use



Continuous Learning


Computer Use

Oral Communication It took Sheila about 15 minutes to complete the job description. It was time well invested because it gave her a comprehensive list of Essential Skills and desirable Work Habits to look for in a new employee.



Section Seven Navigate the Ontario Skills Passport Website to Create a Job Description for Your Present and Future Employees. 2 minutes Why use this tool? It will: •

Help you to include important information that you need in a job description or ad. It’s easy to leave something important out of a job ad if you are starting from a blank page.

Increase your chances of finding the right employee. By using a skills-based job description you can be more certain that your new employee has the right experience and qualifications to work for you. A high school diploma doesn’t always tell you what you really need to know. A checklist of skills that can be verified provides more exact information.

Provide you with information that can be used to write an interview checklist for hiring. It can also help you to provide feedback during a job performance review.

Help you to hire the workers with the right skills for the job. Ontario Skills Passport saves you time, energy and money.


Nine Steps to an Accurate Skills-Based Job Description (Try it yourself! Take time to explore the Ontario Skills Passport website by following these nine easy steps.)

15 minutes


Go to Ontario Skills Passport at


Click on Employer Tools


Click on Create a Job Ad or Job Description


Under Choose a Job Title, either type in the job title or the NOC code. You can find the NOC code by clicking on the NOC Code and scrolling down to find the job title. Click on the job title to make sure that it is the one you want. Click Next.


Choose Work Habits. Select the work habits that are most important for the job you wish to advertise. Click Next.


Choose Essential Skills. Select the ones that you think are most important for the job you wish to advertise. If you aren’t sure which to choose, then just click on the NOC code and job description at the top of the Essential Skills table. A page will open that describes which skills are used on the job. You can click each skill for more details. Click Next.


Choose Tasks. Choose the tasks that are related to the Essential Skills you have chosen. Click Next.


Fill in the Other Information as needed.


Save and print your document.



Section Eight Know the Value of the National Occupational Classification. (Read helpful background information on the NOC.)

5 minutes The National Occupational Classification (NOC) provides in-depth information on job-specific skills as well as an access route to the Essential Skills Profiles. The NOC provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It is used to:

Define and collect statistics

Manage information databases

Analyze labour market trends

Identify practical career planning information

It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work. (From the introduction, Why is a standardized language important? It means that everyone in the labour market, including employers, job searchers, career counsellors and the Job Bank are speaking the same language. In the past, this was not always the case. A term like “essential skills” could mean very different things to different groups. The NOC includes a list of job-specific skills for each occupational profile. It also links to the Essential Skills Profiles so that you can read in-depth information on the Essential Skills needed for specific occupations.


Have you used the NOC for hiring and preparing job descriptions? The NOC organizes more than 30,000 job titles into 520 occupational groups. This means that the jobs that your employees do are classified by skill type and skill level. As well, occupation descriptions include:

A Lead Statement The lead statement provides a general description of the occupation and the boundaries of the unit group. It also indicates the kinds of industries, workplaces or establishments where the occupation is found.

Example Titles Example titles are the occupational titles commonly found within the group.

Main Duties This section describes the most significant duties of the occupations in the group.

Employment Requirements Employment requirements are prerequisites generally needed to enter the occupation.

Additional Information Additional Information includes details on topics like: progression to another occupation and trends and anticipated changes in employment requirements.

It is helpful for you, the employer, to know the NOC codes associated with your business because they enable you to create an accurate description of each occupation in your workplace. 26


Section Nine Case Study Part Two (Read a case study and look at an example of a page from the National Occupational Classification website.)

3 minutes Sheila Evans, co-owner of Grassroots Greenhouse, was very pleased with the job description she developed using the Ontario Skills Passport website. The job description gave her a good sense of which Essential Skills and work habits were most useful for greenhouse workers. Sheila also decided to check out the NOC website. She was amazed at the amount of information that it stored. Because she already knew the NOC code for a greenhouse worker, Sheila was able to use the quick search function. Sheila entered 8432 into the quick search box. A single-page job description filled her computer screen. Sheila called Chris into their tiny office to see the results. “Amazing!” said Chris. “It would have taken us weeks to research and find this information!” “I know,” said Sheila. “Now we have all of the information we need to create a job ad for the greenhouse worker position. We know the Essential Skills and the job-specific skills.”



Section 10 Five Steps to Improve Your Job Description or Job Ad (Research a job title or NOC code on the NOC website.)

15 minutes 1.

Type HRSDC NOC into your search engine.


Click on National Occupational Classification 2006. On this page, you should see three headings:

National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2006

Career Handbook – Second Edition

Job Descriptions: An Employer’s Handbook


Click on the link for National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2006.


Use the Quick Search in the bottom left corner of the web page.

If you know the four-digit NOC code for your employee job description, enter it in the box. If you only know the job title, enter it in the box. Quick Search will give you a selection of NOC codes and job titles to select from. Choose the one that most closely matches your employee’s job profile. You may wish to record them here so that you have them for future reference:

Job Title

NOC Code

Quick Search should now display a page that includes Example Titles, Main Duties and Employment Requirements for your employee job description. 5.

Print or add this page to your favourites for future reference. 28



Section Eleven The Essential Skills Profiles (Read background information on the Essential Skills Profiles for a better understanding of their importance in the hiring process.)

2 minutes Essential Skills Profiles describe how each of the nine Essential Skills are used by workers in specific occupations. Over several years, the Government of Canada has conducted research examining the skills people use at work. From this research and through interviews with workers, managers, practitioners and leading researchers Essential Skills Profiles have been developed for various occupations of the National Occupational Classification. For employers, this information is invaluable for creating accurate job descriptions. The breakdown of Essential Skills and the job-specific examples given in the Profiles enable employers to pinpoint the skills they are looking for employees to have and how those skills ought to be used.



Section 12 Case Study Part Three (Read this case study to learn about how the Essential Skills Profiles apply to your employee’s job description.)

10 mintues Chris and Sheila Evans of Grassroots Greenhouse had hired two seasonal employees: Burt and Oswald. Burt had been a seasonal employee for three years. He was very good with plants and could be depended on to follow instructions very well. This was Oswald’s first season working at Grassroots. In the past, he had worked in construction and in retail selling cell phone plans. But Oswald decided that he really wanted to work with plants. Chris and Sheila had hired Oswald because they liked his friendliness and positive attitude. He assured them that he learned new skills quickly. This was important because he did not have many job-specific skills for working in a greenhouse. Sheila and Chris were at a point in their business where they felt they needed a full-time employee who could work year -round. The choice lay between Burt and Oswald. Because they were having a hard time choosing between the two employees, Sheila decided to compare their skills. “That’s easy,” said Chris, “Burt has more skills and experience than Oswald.” “True,” said Sheila, “Although Oswald really has learned a surprising amount this spring.” Chris agreed. He really liked Oswald and thought that he had done very well for his first greenhouse season. Nonetheless, as a small business owner, Chris could not afford to hire based on personality.



“We already know that Burt has more job-specific skills than Oswald,” said Sheila. “Why don’t we compare their Essential Skills and then make a decision?”

Sheila decided to use the Essential Skills Profile for a greenhouse worker. The Essential Skills Profiles have detailed information about the way all Essential Skills are used in a specific occupation and at what level. Sheila wanted to look at “Money Math”, “Oral Communication” and “Continuous Learning”. She felt that these were skills that Burt found challenging but that were important to Grassroots’ growing business.


The Document Sections of the Essential Skills Profiles were confusing to read, so Sheila decided to create a chart that would help her to see the skills her business needed and to make comparisons between the two employees.

Essential Skill

Who Has the Stronger Skill?

NNumeracy – Money Math Total bills, take payment and make change for purchases in the greenhouse. (Money Math)


Prepare invoices for sale items, calculating discounts and taxes. (Money Math) Oral Communication Receive instructions from supervisors and clarify tasks with them.

Oswald x x


Communicate with other greenhouse staff to co-ordinate work schedules and tasks and to exchange information.


Talk to customers to help them to select their purchases or to advise them on fertilizers or plant care.


Participate in meetings with co-workers and supervisors to talk about nursery arrangements and service to customers.


Continuous Learning Train in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).


Attend sessions or workshops on gardening topics.


Keep up-to-date through on-the-job training, learning from supervisors, co-workers and reference books.



Burt had great skills for the greenhouse but he was not very friendly with customers. He was a shy man and reluctant to learn the retail side of the business. He preferred to keep busy with the plants. Oswald did not have Burt’s “green thumb” but he had great customer service skills. As well, he had been able to give Chris and Sheila some advice on a new cash register. They were investing in a computerized cash register that would help them keep track of their inventory. When they looked at the Essential Skills, Oswald was the obvious choice. Burt had been unwilling or unable to learn the skills needed for the retail side of the job. “Let’s face it,” said Chris, “It will be a lot easier teaching Oswald to recognize green fly than to teach Burt to greet customers and use the cash register.” Sheila and Chris realized that Burt would need to improve his Essential Skills if he ever wanted to be more than a seasonal employee. Sheila noticed that the Essential Skills website had many tools for employers to assess skills. She thought that when she had a few minutes, she would have a look at some of them. Sheila wanted to keep Burt on as an employee. She hoped that he would be able to improve his Essential Skills on the job and perhaps through some training. After she had reviewed the Essential Skills Profiles, Sheila realized that it was time to revise her job descriptions. She had written them using the Ontario Skills Passport and the National Occupational Classification almost three years ago, and the job descriptions were now out of date.


Section Thirteen Six Steps to Access the Essential Skills Profiles


(Improve your knowledge of the Essential Skills your employee needs to do his/her job. Read through the Essential Skills Profile for your employee’s job description.)

15 minutes 1.

Type Literacy and Essential Skills into your search engine.


Click on the link titled, “Literacy and Essential Skills.”


Click on the Essential Skills Profiles link.


Click on Search the Profiles.


The Search the Profiles page gives you the option to search by: Occupation, Keyword, Most Important Skills, Skill Levels, National Occupational Classification (NOC), and Advanced Search. If you saved the NOC code for your employee job description on page 29 in section 10, click NOC. Otherwise, click Occupation.


NOC code will take you directly to the profile page for that occupation. Occupation will take you to a selection of job titles with NOC codes. Record the job title and NOC code that you wish to research here.

Job Title


NOC Code

You should now be at the Profile Description page for the occupation you have chosen. Save this page to your favourites so that you can refer to it in the future.



Record the most important Essential Skills needed by your employee:

Most Important Essential Skills


In the Document Sections, review the most important Essential Skills needed for your employee by clicking on each skill. Note the complexity levels and examples of tasks for each Essential Skill. You may wish to write down this information or print out sections of the Profile.

Essential Skills

Examples of Tasks



Conclusion (Read a quick re-cap of what you have achieved by reading this Employer Guide.)

2 minutes If you have visited all three websites featured in this employer guide, you will have the raw materials you need to create a job description that accurately reflects the skills needed by your workers to perform their job tasks. Review the following three steps to ensure that you have followed the process for creating an accurate job description. Step 1 – Begin your orientation to job descriptions and the Essential Skills with the Ontario Skills Passport website. You can create an accurate skills-based job description with which to start your hiring process. Step 2 – Move on to the National Occupational Classification website to find a detailed description of the occupation for which you want to hire an employee. Get a clearer picture of the main duties and employment requirements for this position. Step 3 – Search the Essential Skills Profiles for a complete breakdown of:

How Essential Skills are used in your workplace

Which are the most important Essential Skills for a given occupation

Examples of job-specific tasks that show Essential Skills in action

Hiring employees with the right Essential Skills will free up your time. Hiring based on Essential Skills gives you employees who make fewer errors, work more safely, work independently and learn continuously to support the future of your business. It’s worth your time to learn about Essential Skills.


Literacy Link South Central


Phone: 519-681-7307


This project was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s

Office of Literacy and Essential Skills

Literacy Link South Central is a partner in Employment Ontario

This employer guide is available for free download at You are welcome to make copies of this resource. Reproducing these materials for a profit is prohibited. All website links were accurate at the time of printing – May 2011.


Time for Essential Skills  

A guide book for employers

Time for Essential Skills  

A guide book for employers