apple The Essential Skills Profiles

The ES Profiles are considered by some ES pioneers as the most important Essential Skills tool. Information gathered during more than 4,500 interviews with employees describes how each of the Essential Skills is used to perform a variety of job tasks. Many of the skills required are transferable to everyday activities, also making them relevant for learners with independence goals.

The Essential Skills website currently has approximately 300 ES Profiles ( C and D level occupations were completed first, and it should be noted that profiles at these levels represent 65 per cent of all jobs in Canada. The ES profiles are organized according to the nine occupational classifications and four skill levels of the National Occupational Classification (NOC). Many A and B level profiles have also been completed.

Occupations that are rated skill level C usually require secondary school and/or job specific training. For D level jobs, no formal education is necessary, and on-the-job training may be provided by employers. The ES Profiles that would apply to adult learners include the following types of jobs.

  • Clerical and health services support workers (level C)
  • Intermediate and elemental sales and service personnel (levels C and D)
  • Transportation and manufacturing equipment operators, assemblers, and labourers (levels C and D)
  • Trades helpers and labourers (level D)
  • Primary industry workers (level D)
  • Material handlers (level C)
  • Motor vehicle drivers, installers, and service providers (level C)

Profiles for A and B levels require apprenticeship, college, or university education. There are currently more than 60 profiles posted, and profiles at this level are scheduled to be completed in entirety by 2009.

Community Literacy of Ontario found the ES Profiles to be presented in a consistent format for greatest ease of use, and they are searchable by NOC code, job title, and skill level. The search option also offers alternative methods including keyword, advanced search, and most important skills used, reflecting the reality that not all skills required within an occupation are of equal importance.

If you were to search any of the ES Profiles, you would find that they are laid out the same way with a brief description of the occupation and occupational group, examples of the tasks that define the job— including how each ES is applied – complexity ratings, and anticipated trends that will impact the acquisition of other Essential Skills. Consider that the growing use of computerized machinery in the food and beverage processing industry means workers within the field will have to continue developing their computer skills to meet the demands of the job.

Dig deeper and you will discover that not all of the nine Essential Skills are presented in exactly the same way. For example, Thinking Skills is the only category that does not include skill summaries. Summaries offer standardized skill descriptions so readers can compare skills across occupational groups. Summary sections also contain terminology that mimics LBS success markers or performance indicators, which should help literacy practitioners to align the identified tasks with LBS expectations when preparing training plans.

Literacy practitioners can take advantage of the ES Profiles by reviewing the tasks associated with each occupation, and determining the ways they correspond to the life or employment goals of learners in their programs. Perhaps the most important aspect of the ES Profiles for practitioners is how the presented information can inform literacy programming. By reviewing the required skills, specific sample tasks, and summary information, literacy practitioners can develop activities and demonstrations that will help adult learners recognize valuable skills that are transferable from daily life to potential employment opportunities.

The following list suggests several of the ways in which ES Profiles can be used:

  • Goal setting – use the ES Profiles to help learners determine specific areas of interest.
  • Training plans – transfer task examples from the ES Profiles to record specific skills learners in your agency will be working towards mastering.
  • Skills assessment – review the task examples (and their levels) to determine skills learners can already do.
  • Interest evaluation – using the keyword search tool to look for jobs that may match a particular interest. For example, if a learner is interested in working with children, the keyword search for children will identify 29 potential occupations.
  • Job search – students can review the profiles to determine appealing occupations, and a range of related jobs in an occupation.
  • Learning activities – task examples can provide the starting point for developing learning activities.
  • Demonstration development – a combination of task examples can be merged to form clearly defined demonstrations.


  • Visit ES Profiles and call up NOC 6474, Babysitter, Nannies and Parents’ Helpers ( Note that the most important Essential Skills are Oral Communication, Problem Solving, and Decision Making. Who would not benefit from developing these skills?
  • According to the ES Profile, one of the things a babysitter, nanny or parents’ helper does is read labels on food products to determine nutritional value. This responsibility aligns well with the task of managing one’s own physical well-being. By reviewing the remaining duties under Document Use, it is clear that ES offers specific learning expectations that could be easily incorporated into a learner’s training plan, and used to create demonstrations and learning activities. Many of the examples in this profile reflect the kinds of performance indicators learners with independence skills would be able to demonstrate.

Consider how you might use the following task examples from the Babysitter, Nannies and Parents’ Helpers profile to develop skills to support learner independence:

  • Keep an ongoing grocery list, adding items to the list.
  • May pay for groceries, by cash or cheque, when doing the shopping.
  • Measure ingredients when preparing food.
  • Note special events or upcoming outings on the calendar.
  • Read labels on medication to determine dosages when children are ill.
  • May read a city map when driving somewhere new.
  • Read directions and diagrams to assemble toys.
  • Speak to cashiers, store clerks or other service representatives when purchasing items or enquiring about prices or hours of operation.

Questions and Activities for Reflection

  • From what sources do you currently gather sample tasks to develop learning activities or demonstrations?
  • After reading this chapter, in what ways do you think you could take advantage of workplace examples to create Essential Skills development units?
  • Do you think that pulling task examples from the Essential Skills Profile might make your job of establishing performance indicators or developing learning activities easier? Why or why not?
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