For Essential Skills, Employers, Counselors and Regulatory Bodies

This section:

  • Helps internationally-educated adult newcomers and immigrants understand language requirements for particular jobs to inform their learning plans and goals
  • Assists job analysts, employers, trainers and government in understanding the second-language requirements underlying specific job competencies described in Essential Skills Profiles
  • Supports Canadian Language Benchmarks specialists to develop occupation-specific language training curriculum, course materials and/or assessment tools.
  • Helps sector councils, industry organizations, and workplaces to define occupational language requirements and to provide appropriate language training or development opportunities.
  • Provides ESL/FLS and Essential Skills teaching aids for those working with adult immigrants and newcomers. The bridging materials support the use of the Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills.

Bridging – Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills for the workplace


Describes the second language proficiency of people and their ability to communicate effectively in the workplace and community. They describe language proficiency in the areas of speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Essential Skills

Are enabling skills, for example, reading and oral communication skills, which help people participate fully in the workplace and community. Seven of the 9 Essential Skills have a scale to describe levels of task complexity. Essential Skills Profiles describe how specific skills are used in a given occupation.

About Essential Skills

Essential Skills are the skills needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine Essential Skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways and at different levels of complexity. Essential Skills profiles describe how each of the nine Essential Skills are used by workers in a particular occupation.

Over the past several years, the federal department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has conducted research examining the skills people use at work. From this research and through interviews with workers, managers, practitioners and leading researchers, over 350 Essential Skills Profiles have been developed for various occupations of the National Occupational Classification (NOC). 

You can find more information about Essential Skills by clicking the links below.

Updating the Essential Skills/CLB Comparative Framework

Background Relating Canadian Language Benchmarks to Essential Skills: A Comparative Framework (CF) was produced in 2005 for the purpose of bringing together the communicative abilities described in the Essential Skills (ES) and the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB). The CF was designed from the perspective of Essential Skills, with the focus on illustrating how CLB levels lined up with ES tasks and descriptors. The CF shows that the Essential Skills generally require language ability that aligns with Stage II and Stage III of the CLB scale. For this reason, the original CF document was used primarily by ESL practitioners working with learners


More than 70% of current Canadian labour force growth is due to immigration. By 2011 Human Resources and Skills Development Canada predict that immigrants will account for all labour force growth! (1)

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks’ conducted several research and development projects in order to bridge two national skills standards.  Bridging these two standards supports a better understanding of the skills newcomers and immigrants need to reach their employment goals.

Bridging the Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills supports the successful integration of adult newcomers and immigrants into the workforce:
  • For internationally-educated workers, it helps them access Essential Skills resources to better understand job specific competencies and requirements and understand the language proficiency necessary to meet those requirements.
  • For ESL/FLS professionals, it helps them use the Essential Skills resources to better understand job specific competencies and tasks, and develop more targeted workplace related language training programs.
  • For workplace trainers and career counsellors, it helps them use the Canadian Language Benchmarks to understand language skills necessary to perform tasks related to specific job competencies, and develop appropriate workplace training and development programs.
  • For employers, government and sector councils, it helps them identify better and understand the language skills required for success in the workplace.

Matching Canadian Language Benchmarks to Essential Skills

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has researched and developed two different resources for indicating how the Canadian Language Benchmarks levels intersect with the Essential Skills complexity levels. The two tools are:

Essential Skills Primer: CLB Stage 1

This tool was designed to be used for CLB levels that fall below those corresponding to the ES levels in the Comparative Framework.

The Essential Skills Primer: CLB Stage 1 has two important characteristics: a focus on lower CLB levels and an emphasis on workplace-related tasks. It consists of a diagnostic tool and a set of skills tables.

The Essential Skills Primer: CLB Stage I is an excellent tool for ESL teachers who want help diagnosing the Essential Skills needs of their language learners and who want task descriptors that can be used to incorporate Essential Skills into ESL classroom activities. It was designed for use with learners in the CLB 1 – 7 range and covers four communication skills.

Use this tool to help beginner and intermediate-level learners work towards their Essential Skills competencies in Essential Skills complexity level 1.


Diagnostic Tool:






Skills Tables:





Relating Canadian Language Benchmarks to Essential Skills: A Comparative Framework

This document, often referred to as the “Comparative Framework”,  contains a complete list of global descriptors and tasks for corresponding CLB and ES levels and skills.

This Comparative Framework has been designed for English as a Second Language (ESL) practitioners who want to incorporate meaningful workplace content and Essential Skills resources into adult second language classrooms and curricula. The document has been organized in the following manner:

  • For each skill, a chart is first presented in order to provide a quick overview of the general relationship between the two scales (Global Descriptors).
  • This initial chart is then followed by a a series of skill tables with examples of tasks and behaviours.

NOTE: This is not a straight-forward alignment, but rather an intersection that reflects the complex and multi-dimensional relationship between two very different underlying scales.

Canadian Language Benchmarks levels define learner performance whereas with Essential Skills, complexity levels are based on the task itself. It is not enough to simply consult the alignment tables in the framework in order to make assumptions about ES materials for specific purposes. It reflects an estimate of how both standards/ scales intersect.

You can find the complete document here:

An Occupational Language Analysis (OLA) defines the standard English and French language requirements of an occupation based on the tasks identified in occupation-specific Essential Skills Profiles. An OLA defines the Canadian Language Benchmarks levels required to perform tasks related to specific jobs as defined in the Essential Skills Profiles and additional information found in the National Occupational Standards. Each OLA is developed following a set methodology developed by the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks in partnership with Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council.

An OLA serves as a companion document to both the Essential Skill Profile (developed by HRSDC for occupations defined by the National Occupation Classification system) and the National Occupational Standard of the sector for a given occupation. OLAs define language requirements of the occupation based on the tasks identified in the Essential Skill Profile and the National Occupation Classification.

Click one of the following links for the:


This section contains links to online materials and resources you might find useful in your teaching, curriculum planning, and research activities. Many of them relate to either CLB or Essential Skills directly, but many also link to sites with resources to help with pre-employment and workplace related content.

Resources for Teaching (Lessons, activities, etc.)

Career Cruising: A comprehensive and interactive career guidance resource that provides the information to make the right career choice. In-depth profiles of hundreds of different careers, detailed information on colleges and universities, and multimedia interviews with real people in every career. – Newspaper Job Search: Browse newspaper job ads and search careers by job category and location.

ESL resources: General ESL resources, but also telephone skills.

Government of Canada: Do I Want to Be My Own Boss? Take a self-employment quiz, read about the con and pros, and the myths and realities of self-employment.

Employment and Social Development Canada: Information on jobs, financial benefits, career planning, labour and workplace, training and learning, etc.

Employment and Social Development Canada: Essential Skills Profiles, Authentic Workplace Materials, Tools and Applications and Resource Guide.

Employment and Social Development Canada: What are Essential Skills?

Employment and Social Development Canada: Literacy and Essential Skills.

Government of Canada: Job Bank.

SkillPlan [BC Construction Industry Skills Improvement Council]: Excellent print resources (Measure Up CD, Writing at Work, Numeracy at Work, Reading at Work, Document Use at Work) are available to order. Many authentic workplace documents are available in these materials.

Telephone Skills: This website gives typical dialogues to practice, tips on how to use the telephone in a professional manner, etc.

TOWES – Test of Workplace Essential Skills: How Do Your Skills Measure Up? (1)Test your Skills: Reading Text, Document Use, Numeracy Skills, (2) Practice: filling out forms, reading regulations, calculating numbers and other workplace tasks, and (3) Explore Careers. Register free and create and save up to 10 resumes; create an email CareerAlert!; track job opportunities; build and save searches for re-use, etc.

Occupation-Specific Teaching Resources

Bartender Training Resources: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers several modules for Bartender training online, as well as a Trainer’s guide for Bartender/Food & Beverage Server and workbooks.

CTHRC’s Food Counter Attendant Training Resources: The Canadian Tourism & Human Resource Council has complete descriptions of job tasks in the form of the National Occupational Standard for Food Counter Attendant. PDF copies are free downloads, but hard copies are available on the web site for purchase.

CTHRC’s Freshwater Angling Guide Training Resources: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Freshwater Angling Guide, as well as a self-study workbook.

CTHRC Front Desk Agent Training Resources: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers several modules for hotel Front Desk Agent training online, as well as a Trainer’s guide, and Workbooks.

CTHRC’s Guest Service Attendant Training Materials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Guest Service Attendant, as well as a Trainer’s guide for GSA and a workbook.

Tourism Essentials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council has a series of resources called Tourism Essentials that help introduce and prepare people to enter the hospitality and tourism industry. Materials can be offered in a classroom environment or done as self-study online. Classroom materials include a Trainer’s guide, Workbooks, and Answer Keys.

CTHRC’s Retail Sales Associate Training Materials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Retail Sales Associate, as well as a Trainer’s guide for Bartender/Food & Beverage Server and a workbook.

CTHRC’s Retail First-Level Manager Training Materials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Retail First-Level Manager, as well as a Trainer’s guide for Bartender/Food & Beverage Server and a workbook.

CTHRC’s Taxicab Driver Training Materials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Taxicab Drivers that is available as a free .PDF download or hard copies can be purchased.

CTHRC’s Tour Director Training Materials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Tour Director, as well as a self-study workbook.

CTHRC’s Travel Counsellor Training Materials: The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council offers a National Occupational Standard for Travel Counsellor, as well as a self-study workbook.

Ontario Skills Passport (OSP): Resource that provides clear descriptions of the skills used in virtually all occupations, as well as important work habits. It also provides employers with a consistent method of assessing and recording the demonstration of these skills and work habits in the workplace. The skills listed in the OSP are transferable skills that all learners (including high school students and adult learners), job seekers and workers can take from job to job, sector to sector and school to work.

Resources for Teachers (Curriculum development, research, etc.)

Alberta Workplace Essential Skills (AWES): This is the site of a non-profit organization that runs projects dedicated to promoting the advantages of a confident, innovative and literate workforce through its support for essential skills training projects across the province. Various resources for teachers are available on their website.

Career Journal: A site aimed at professionals, but many interesting articles on topical workplace and business issues.

Employability Skills: The Conference Board of Canada. Identifies the skills that employers are looking for.

Government of Canada: Jobs, Workers, Training and Careers: Information on job listings, job search techniques, my rights as a worker, my workplace, my benefits; training/learning resources for individuals, teachers, practitioners and organizations; identify and research career options, and other useful links.

Hire immigrants: The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) website that showcases organizations who excel at integrating immigrants into their workforces, and lays out their strategies so others can learn from them.

SkillsZone: Gateway and companion resource to the Ontario Skills Passport (OSP). It provides games, interactive learning resources and learning activities linked to Essential Skills and work habits (ESWH).

Skilled Trades: A Career You Can Build On: This site contains information about how to access a trade.

Workplace Literacy Central: This Conference Board of Canada resource is free and has information, tools, and advice for Canadian organizations and employers who want to raise literacy and basic skills levels in the workplace.

Career Planning Resources for ESL Teachers

Settlement at Work: This site contains information about the STIC (Sector-Specific Terminology Information and Counselling) project that provides a model for sector specific orientation, occupational terminology training, computerized profile building, and career action plan development for internationally-trained professionals and tradespeople. It includes four sectors: Engineering, Accounting, Health Care, and Automotive Service Mechanics.

Canlearn Interactive: This government site helps learners find out information about post-secondary training options.

Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials: This website contains information and fact sheets about provincial credentialling organizations, Prior Learning Assessment, and other resources to help with credential recognition.

Canadian Technology Human Resources Board Career Videos: This site contains links to a set of online career videos describing what real people do in their jobs in real workplaces. Some of the careers available include horticulture, wood processing, aquaculture, forestry, biotechnology and information technology careers.

CareerShop: Is a catalogue of career and workplace resources available through the Government of Alberta’s Human Resources and Employment Department.

Chartered Accountancy: Find out about chartered accountancy and what it can offer in career choices.

CTEN: The Canadian Technical Employment Network (CTEN) is a national job referral system which puts technology professionals – members of provincial associations – in touch with prospective employers searching for quality technical staff with specific knowledge and expertise.

English at Work: A government of Manitoba web site directed at employers with a diverse workforce.

ESPORT – ES Portfolio: ESPORT is a basic skills assessment and planning tool to help people prepare for entry level occupations. ESPORT-Plus, with PLATO, offers a supported learning program tailored to the occupation a learner chooses.  While it can be used alone, developers recommend that the learner get some facilitation as they progress on their job search. Learners can find information about specific Essential Skills Profiles that they are suited/skilled for, upgrade their existing skill sets, and apply for jobs.

Hire Immigrants: This site is aimed at employers and contains statistics, project information and resources promoting why hiring immigrants can benefit their companies.  The site contains case studies, strategies, plus a self- assessment tool for employers.

Skills International: is a collaborative initiative of WIL Consulting and Training for Employment (London, ON), COSTI Immigrant Services (Toronto), and the Waterloo Region District School Board (Kitchener) which aims to successfully and efficiently connect internationally-educated professional newcomers, engaged in Employment Preparation programs, with businesses that require their skillsets. This site is exclusively dedicated to internationally-educated professionals. Employers can search the site for candidates and agencies/ESL programs can post resumes of learners who are ready to enter the workforce.

Training & Careers: This gives learners information on how to find a job, keeping the job, and getting the skills you need.

Transferable Trade Skills: This B.C. web site that lets users enter their trade skills and see what their options are for further training, cross-training in another trade, and lets them compare their existing qualifications in the form of a dacum chart. Uses NOC codes and Red Seal trades information.

WES Preliminary Online Equivalency Tool: This site allows learners to enter the post-secondary degrees* that they have earned and obtain an instant Canadian equivalency for them. For $30 learners may enter 3 credentials. This cost can be credited toward the cost of an official evaluation.

Women Building Futures: This site contains various resources for women considering working in trades. (Alberta resource)

Workinfonet: This is an Ontario career website. Learn about choices and job openings.

CLB and Essential Skills Research

Research done by CCLB:

Stewart G., Geraci K., and Dr. Nagy, P., “Essential Skills and Canadian Language Benchmarks: Considerations in comparing conceptual framewroks” Essential Skills and CLB Considerations in comparing conceptual frameworks , May 2004

Stewart G., Geraci K., and Dr. Nagy, P., “CLB – ES Comparative Framework: Report on Responses from the FieldCLB ES Comparative Framework- Report on Responses from the Field , July 2005

Stewart G., InQuire Consulting, and Dr. Nagy, P., “Canadian Language Benchmarks Oral Communication Validation” CLB – ES Speaking Validation , March 2006

Stewart G., Geraci K., and Dr. Nagy, P., “Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills Writing Validation” CLB – ES Writing Validation, January 2006

Stewart G., Nagy P., and Jones S., “The Canadian Language Benchmarks and the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey: A comparative examination of reading components” CLB and ALL A Comparative examination of Reading Components , May 2004


Research by other organizations:

Government of Canada

Non-Government Research