The Need for Essential Skills

Many workers have workplace Essential Skills below recommended levels.

For most workplace Essential Skills, a minimum of “Level 3” is deemed necessary for today’s workplace demands (International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey: Manitoba Results, 2003).

Many Manitoba workers fall below this level.

  • 40% of Manitoba workers perform at Levels 1 and 2 in prose and document use, and 50% perform at Levels 1 and 2 in numeracy.*
  • 60% of Manitoba workers with Level 1 skills are employed and 80% of those with Level 2 skills are employed.*

* International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey: Manitoba Results, 2003

Low literacy levels are more prevalent in some industries than in others.

The top five Manitoba industries* that hire the most Level 1 and 2 workers are:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Trade, finance, insurance, real estate and leasing
  3. Accommodation and food services
  4. Construction
  5. Health care and social assistance

* These represent about 66% of workers in Manitoba.

Low literacy levels are more prevalent amongst immigrants - regardless of how long they have lived in Canada.

  • 62% of recent immigrants (i.e. those who have been in Canada for 10 years or less) and 60% of established immigrants (i.e. those who have been in Canada for more than 10 years) perform at Levels 1 and 2, compared to 37% of the Canadian-born population.
  • The findings for immigrants showed that the average scores do not vary by length of stay in Canada, i.e. there are no significant differences amongst the proportion of recent and established immigrants scoring below Level 3.

Employers can’t assume that young employees entering the workforce have the Essential Skills levels needed for the workplace.

  • Many students do not graduate from high school (e.g. 48% of Aboriginals do not complete high school).
  • There are gaps between skills learned in school and skills needed in the workplace. Many companies are experiencing a skilled labour shortage as job applicants frequently do not have the skills necessary for them to hire, train and retain. Many of these same companies use a Grade 12 requirement combined with recruitment testing – which potential new workers are failing.

Employers are starting to recognize the need for improving workplace Essential Skills – and their role and responsibility in it.

The overall top skills reported to be “in short supply” by employers were Essential Skills. Significantly, verbal communication was said to need significant improvement within their organizations (CME General Manufacturing Sector Human Resource Needs Survey, 2008).

Employers are also finding that:

  • Inadequate Essential Skills remain a barrier to successful Apprenticeship training, as well as the training and testing. 
  • Increased certification and regulatory requirements continue to create pressures on certain occupational groups (e.g. water and waste workers) and within certain sectors (e.g. aerospace)... and success is most often about Essential Skill capabilities.
  • Low Essential Skills levels often mean workers will not seek out training/education because they are overwhelmed by the Essential Skills requirements. This leads to them being less interested in being promoted within the company.
 
 
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