Essential Skills



While I do agree with the statement that “adult learners come to class equipped with essential skills”, I do not agree with the statement that “it is not the role of the instructor to teach anything outside of the subject matter”. (Reflective Writing, 2015, pg.1).  Let’s first address the topic of essential skills, what they are, how we develop them, and whether we all have the same abilities to master them.

According to Phyllis Mann, essential skills include “thinking skills, reading text, computer use, numeracy, oral communication, document use, working with others, continuous learning, and writing”. (Essential Skills, 2010).            As defined by Literacy Link South Central,

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.  Essential Skills are another way to talk about literacy skills development.  They were created for the workplace. (What are Essential Skills, 2015, para.1).

So now that we know what essential skills are, let’s address the matter of how we develop them. These are not skills that a person is born with, but rather something that a person must be taught.  Not only must one be taught these skills, but in order for one to develop these skills and master them, they must be put to use in real life situations and practiced.  This is a situation in which the saying “practice makes perfect” fits accordingly.

This brings us to our next point of whether we all possess the same abilities to master these essential skills.  In my opinion the answer is no, the reason being that every individual is able to excel in different areas.  Some people are gifted speakers, and their very nature commands the attention of others, while other people are gifted in their ability to use technology, and still there are others who may be introverts and excel at their writing abilities.                 Essential skills are something we are taught throughout our early years of education; by our teachers, parents, friends, and various others in our lives; and further developed and mastered as we use them in our everyday lives.  As we are taught these skills, I believe that individuals choose to focus their abilities on developing the skills that they may be the most comfortable with or that they naturally excel at.  It can, therefore, be seen that while adults may come to class already possessing essential skills, not every adult will have developed each of these skills in the same way and, therefore, will not have mastered them at the same levels.


I chose to address the above mentioned statement because, out of the two statements we were to choose from, this is the one that I had the most immediate gut reaction to.  The reason for this is that I have always believed that the role of an adult educator is so much more than to just teach course content.

Although essential skills are usually taught to an individual during their earlier years, it does not mean that adults don’t need to further develop and refine these skills throughout their lives.  As such, I think it is imperative for adult educators not only to teach their students the course content but to also teach and help adults to further develop their essential skills.  If adult educators don’t engage in this type of activity, then how are their students supposed to grow beyond just acquiring new knowledge?  Adults need to be able to practice the essential skills that they have learned and receive feedback in order to be able to reflect on how they have used these skill and how they can use them differently and/or more effectively in the future.

I also believe that not every adult will have learned all of the skills that fall under the category of essential skills.  Every individual walks a different path throughout their lives and, therefore, they may not have had a reason, or come across a situation, that required them to learn certain skills.  Take for example an individual who went through high school and straight into college/university without ever having a job.  This individual probably will not have learned the skills of job task planning and organization, or those of interdisciplinary collaboration.  If this were true, I believe it would be negligent of an instructor to graduate a student who hasn’t had the opportunity to develop and practice these skills before going out into the workforce.


As stated in the article Integration of Generic Values and Skills “in addition to specific subject knowledge and skills,  a curriculum can also describe more general learning that learners need   in order to be successful”. (2015, para. 1).  I believe that the “more general learning” spoken about in this article refers to that of essential skills.  It can, therefore, be seen that an adult educator, or any educator for that matter, must not only think about the subject matter that they teach but they must also consider the skills they are teaching and helping to develop within their students.

Critical thinking, for example, is a skill that some adults may not have had much opportunity to learn and develop during their earlier years.  It is, therefore, imperative that adult educators not only teach this skill but allow their students ample opportunity to be able to apply and practice this skill.  It is also necessary for adult educators to integrate opportunities for assessment of this skill, so that students have the chance to reflect on this assessment and refine their skills as necessary.

While reading the required readings for this reflective writing assignment, I was surprised to learn that many employers feel that new graduates are not always prepared for the realities they face within the job market.  Students are graduating without much experience, with unrealistic expectations, and sometimes a lack of required skills. (2010 Biennial Skills and Attributes Survey Report, 2010).  This speaks to the fact that these individuals are not obtaining all of the required skills that they need to be successful in the workplace.  This reaffirms for me that it is fundamentally important for adult educators to be teaching essential skills.


I have always believed that adult educators are responsible for more than just teaching subject matter, so this belief has been reaffirmed through the readings and research I have done on this topic. I believe, now more than ever, that adult educators of today have a much more difficult task than educators of the past.  So many more skills are needed in today’s workforce and it is, therefore, the responsibility of adult educators to be ensuring that their students develop and master these skills prior to graduation.

Through the 2010 Biennial Skills and Attributes Survey Report it appears that employers of today have much higher expectations of new graduates than they may have in the past.  Not only have employer expectations changed, but the knowledge and skills that an employee requires today has also changed, due to technology advances and a changing marketplace.

It is the job of an adult educator to prepare their students to be successful in today’s market, therefore, adult educators must not just teach subject matter but must also teach all other skills and abilities that a student would need in order to do so.  It can be seen that in order to be successful in today’s market one must possess a myriad of knowledge, skills, traits, values, and morals.  I think that because adult educators are ultimately the ones that are in charge of ensuring student’s readiness to enter the workforce, by default it becomes their responsibility to also ensure these students have all of the knowledge, traits and skills needed to do so.  If adult educators are not the ones responsible for ensuring that this happens, then who is?



Business Council of British Columbia. (2010). 2010 Biennial skills and attributes survey report: What Are B.C. Empolyers Looking For?  Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Retrieved from    0skills%20report.pdf

Integration of Generic Values and Skills. (2015). PIDP 3210 – Course Syllabus.  Vancouver, B.C., Canada: Vancouver Community College. Retrieved from    f%20Generic%20Values%20and%20Skills.pdf

Literacy Link South Central. (2015). What are Literacy Skills.  London, ON, Canada. Retrieved from

Presant, D. (2010, Oct. 1).  Essential Skills- Phyllis Mann . Retrieved from    4VqsJCMVR0k_rCoWCvw_gzywz

Reflective Writing. (2015). PIDP 3210 – Course Syllabus.  Vancouver, BC, Canada: Vancouver Community College. Retrieved from    riting%20Assignment.pdf