Essential Skills

What are Essential Skills?

The Essential Skills are communication, mathematics, document use and life skills.  Proficiency in these skills is essential for success in the workplace.

What are the goals of an Essential Skills course?

There are three main goals:

  • to re-engage adult learners with the education system
  • to prepare students for further  job-related training
  • to prepare students for employment

How are Essential Skills courses organized and delivered?

Courses are between eight and twelve weeks in duration.  The school day is six hours in length and organized into four ninety- minute time blocks, one each for communications, mathematics, document use and life skills.  Some courses are delivered in First Nation communities, while others are delivered in an urban classroom setting.

What resources does the curriculum use?

The curriculum makes use of three main resources:

  • WorkWrite by Pathways to Possibilities (PTP)
  • PLATO Learning Environment by PLATO Learning
  • Discovering Life Skills by YWCA

The Workwrite Series by PTP provide the foundation of the curriculum.  These print resources use real workplace documents to strengthen students’ reading, writing, document use and mathematics skills.  Activities are offered at PTP’s Essential Skills Levels 1,2 and 3.  The curriculum also includes an extensive appendix of supplementary math activities.

The PLATO Learning Environment (PLE) is an excellent online learning resource which recognizes and develops student competence with technology.  Activities from PLATO have been matched with activities and topics from WorkWrite , recognizing a need for reinforcement and acknowledging differing learning styles.

The life skills component of the program was developed by the YWCA of Metropolitan Toronto based upon earlier work done by the Saskatchewan NewStart program.  Through it students learn non-academic skills which are important for success in any workplace.

What are the entrance requirements?

Potential students must complete the Employment Readiness Scale which identifies their individual needs and potential obstacles to employ-ability.  Other assessments of academic skill may be administered in order to guide programming.

How is student progress measured?

CAMERA has diagnostic tests which are administered during and at the end of each course.  These results can then be compared to Placement Test results in order to measure progress.  Similarly, PLATO has lesson, unit and course tests which measure student mastery of skills and concepts.

How can I learn more?

Contact our training staff by emailing