Wiping out the history of Essential Skills

Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) announcement that “Skills for Success” will replace the 25-year-old Essential Skills framework appears to have taken place with a simultaneous purge of anything to do with Essential Skills on federal government websites.

Searching for the official definition of the nine Essential Skills on Google brought me repeatedly to the “Skills for Success” website which does not list the nine Essential Skills. I was unable to find the old dedicated Essential Skills website. Finally, I was able to access the list with the definitions of the 9 skills via ESDC’s Skills and Competencies Taxonomy (although I hesitated to mention this for fear of it too being purged).

I then tried to find the Essential Skills Profiles. Turns out the standalone database is gone and the profiles are integrated into Job Bank Canada. If you’re looking for the profiles, the “Skills for Success” website eventually leads you to the Job Bank site after three clicks. The clicks are 1) For organizations and training providers – Skill Competencies and Proficiency Levels; 2) Useful Resources – Essential Skills Profiles (at the bottom of the page); 3) Essential Skills Profiles which brings you to the Job Bank. Not an easy trail to follow.

Not only has all the Essential Skills information been purged, the former Office of Literacy and Essential Skills project funding database has disappeared. While I have continually pointed out this database hadn’t been updated since about 2015, the fact that the historical record of funded projects has been expunged is disappointing. How can we build on past successes when no record remains?

I get that a new regime is entering the field. But that is no reason to remove all references to the old regime. I do not understand the reasons to wipe out history. The least the department could have done is archive the information.

Over the past twenty-five years, Essential Skills has become for many a ‘national standard.’ Hundreds of organizations, practitioners, trainers use the Essential Skills Framework and Profiles. The Framework and Profiles are embedded in the Red Seal program, the ESDC Taxonomy of Skills and Competencies, the Canadian Language Benchmarks, TOWES, hundreds of courses, assessment tools and training programs – in person and online, and provincial and territorial adult literacy curriculum frameworks.

What is the department’s expectation? Should everything and everyone pause until the department is able to present a fully formed framework?  The Skills for Success website states, “a number of Skills for Success job profiles will replace the ES profiles in the coming months.” A number? In the coming months? Good luck with that – there are 350 Essential Skills profiles developed over decades of work!

So far, “Skills for Success” contains only definitions and preliminary proficiency levels – no job profiles, no validated proficiency or complexity levels. It will take years to get “Skills for Success” to a level comparable to the Essential Skills project.

The Office of Skills for Success needs to lay out a transition plan to support the field as it moves towards this new skills framework. Part of that plan needs to acknowledge that people will continue to use the Essential Skills framework until it is replaced with a robust alternative and to make sure the supporting documentation is accessible.

About Brigid Hayes

Brigid Hayes has developed an expertise in learning that spans over 35 years as a senior government policy advisor and program manager and partnership developer; director of labour for a national business/labour skills centre and as an independent consultant. Her knowledge of and experience in workplace literacy and learning has contributed to her recognition as an expert in this field, and she has undertaken significant activities to both help promote and enhance literacy and lifelong learning. Brigid works as an independent consultant and expert advisor on learning, literacy, and work. She has successfully developed a strategic planning and policy development practice involving workplace literacy, essential skills, partnership development, research, and evaluation.
This entry was posted in Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Government and Literacy, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES), Office of Skills for Success, Skills for Success. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Wiping out the history of Essential Skills

  1. Pingback: Hidden Gems: Essential Skills - Decoda Literacy Solutions

  2. badgerkin says:

    Brigid, is this a Canadian or an Ontario ‘initiative’?

  3. Brigid Hayes says:

    Thanks for the question. The new Skills for Success is a federal initiative replacing the Essential Skills framework. The websites I referred to in this post are all federal websites. Do let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. Julie Bell says:

    I appreciate the head’s up very much!

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