There are many definitions and categories of WORKPLACE BASIC SKILLS, although they share some common elements:

Turning Skills into Profit
SCANS 2000
National Skills Standards Board
Employability Skills

Employers who participated in The Conference Board's Turning Skills into Profit (1999) study of 25 workplace education programs across the United States identified the following as key Workplace Basic Skills:

Literacy Skills

  • improved understanding and ability to use ‘documents’ such as safety instructions, assembly directions or map

  • improved understanding and ability to use ‘numbers’ by themselves or in charts and tables

  • improved understanding and ability to use ‘prose writing’ such as reports, letters and manuals

Other Basic Skills

  • improved ability to listen to understand, learn and apply information and analysis

  • better ability to communicate by using English in the workplace

  • improved capacity to think critically and act logically to evaluate situations, solve problems, and make decisions

  • improved ability to use computers and other technology, instruments, tools and information systems effectively

New Attitudes

  • greater willingness and ability to learn for life

  • more positive attitude toward change

Working with Others

  • better ability to build and work in teams

  • improved understanding and willingness to work within the culture of the group

For more information on Workplace Basic Skills identified in The Conference Board's report, see
Turning Skills into Profit
(PDF, 79.57 KB)


The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) identified five workplace competencies and a three-part foundation of skills and personal qualities that are needed for solid job performance:

Resources – how to allocate time, money, materials, space and staff

Interpersonal Skills – work on teams, teach others, serve customers, lead, negotiate, and work well with people from culturally diverse backgrounds

Information – acquire and evaluate data, organize and maintain files, interpret and communicate, and use computers to process information

Systems – understand social, organizational, and technological systems; they can monitor and correct performance; and they can design or improve systems

Technology – select equipment and tools, apply technology to specific tasks, and maintain and troubleshoot equipment

Foundation Skills – competent workers in the high-performance workplace need:

Basic Skills – reading, writing, arithmetic and mathematics, speaking and listening

Thinking Skills – the ability to learn, to reason, to think creatively, to make decisions, and to solve problems

Personal Qualities – individual responsibility, self-esteem and self-management, sociability, and integrity

For more information on SCANS, visit

The National Skills Standards Board identified a common language for describing academic and employability skills:

Academic Knowledge and Skills Categories:

  • reading, writing, mathematics and science

Employability Knowledge and Skills Categories:

  • listening, speaking; using information and communications technology; gathering and analyzing information; analyzing and solving problems; making decisions and judgments; organizing and planning; using social skills; adaptability; working in teams; leading others; building consensus; and self and career development

For more information on the National Skills Standards Board, visit

Employability Skills, as identified by The Conference Board of Canada, are the skills, attitudes and behaviors that you need to participate and progress in today's dynamic world of work:

Fundamental Skills - skills needed as a base for further development

  • Communicate

  • Manage information

  • Use numbers

  • Think and solve problems

Personal Management Skills - personal skills, attitudes and behaviors that drive one's potential for growth

  • Demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviors

  • Be responsible

  • Be adaptable

  • Learn continuously

  • Work safely

Teamwork Skills - skills and attributes needed to contribute productively   

  • Work with others

  • Participate in projects and tasks

For more information on Employability Skills, visit
The Conference Board of Canada

The CASAS Competency List focuses on learners' goals for adult and secondary level learners:

Basic Communication

  • Communicate in interpersonal interactions

  • Communicate regarding personal information

Consumer Economics

  • Use weights, measures, measurement scales and money

  • Apply principles of comparison shopping in the selection of goods and services

  • Understand methods and procedures used to purchase goods and services

  • Understand methods and procedures to obtain housing and related services

  • Apply principles of budgeting in the management of money

  • Understand consumer protection measures

  • Understand procedures for the care, maintenance, and the use of personal possessions

  • Use banking and financial services in the community

Community Resources

  • Use the telephone and telephone book

  • Understand how to locate and use different types of transportation and interpret related travel information

  • Understand concepts of time and weather

  • Use postal services

  • Use community agencies and services

  • Use leisure time resources and facilities

  • Understand aspects of society and culture


  • Understand how to access and utilize the health care system

  • Understand medical and dental forms and related information

  • Understand how to select and use medications

  • Understand basic principles of health maintenance


  • Understand basic principles of getting a job

  • Understand wages, benefits and concepts of employee organizations

  • Understand work-related safety standards and precautions

  • Understand concepts and materials related to job performance and training

  • Effectively utilize common workplace technology and systems

  • Communicate effectively in the workplace

  • Effectively manage workplace resources

  • Demonstrate effectiveness in working with other people

  • Understand how social, organizational, and technological systems work, and operate effectively within them

Government and Law

  • Understand voting and the political process

  • Understand historical and geographical information

  • Understand and individual's legal rights and responsibilities and procedures for obtaining legal advice

  • Understand information about taxes

  • Understand governmental activities

  • Understand civic responsibilities and activities

  • Understand environmental and science-related issues


  • Demonstrate pre-computation skills

  • Compute using whole numbers

  • Compute using decimal fractions

  • Compute using fractions

  • Compute with percents, rate, ratio and proportion

  • Use expressions, equations and formulas

  • Demonstrate measurement skills

  • Interpret data from graphs and compute averages

  • Use statistics and probability

  • Use estimation and mental arithmetic

Learning to Learn

  • Identify or practice effective organizational and time management skills in accomplishing goals

  • Demonstrate ability to use thinking skills

  • Demonstrate ability to use problem solving skills

  • Demonstrate study skills

  • Understand aspects of and approaches to effective personal management

Independent Living Skills

  • Perform self-care skills

  • Perform home-care skills

  • Use support resources to assist in maintaining independence and achieving community integration

For more information on CASAS competencies, visit

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Last updated: Jan. 30, 2009.