3 The Canadian Language Benchmarks and the Essential Skills

The Government of Canada has created two systems to measure the language and work/life skills you need to be successful in Canada:

  • Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB)
  • Essential Skills

This workbook is part of the LINC Works project. This means it includes activities to develop your language (the CLB or Canadian Language Benchmarks), and it includes activities to develop the Essential Skills you need to be successful at work. You will see icons for both frameworks in this LINC Works course.

Canadian Language Benchmarks

If you have taken LINC courses in Canada, you are probably familiar with the Canadian Language Benchmarks. Complete the activity below to review what the CLB icons look like.


Essential Skills

Usually language programs like LINC only focus on the Canadian Language Benchmarks, but the Government of Canada wants learners to also know and understand the Essential Skills.

“Essential skills are the skills that people need for work, learning, and life. They are used in the community and the workplace, in different forms and at different levels of complexity.” – Government of Canada

Essential Skills are important for all Canadians. Employers expect workers to have good Essential Skills. There are nine categories of Essential Skills used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life. Most people have these skills, but they might not have them at the level they need for the job they want to do. For example, most people can read, but they might have a hard time reading the documents at work because the vocabulary and style of writing is complex.

When you have these skills, they are transferable between jobs and life. For example, listening to instructions from the boss at a safety meeting at a hotel can be transferred to listening to instructions from a supervisor at a clothing store or a coffee shop. Using the phone to call the boss or co-workers is a skill for all jobs. Using a computer system in one job for their work schedule will help someone be comfortable with a new computer system in a new job.

Do the activity below to learn about the nine Essential Skills.


The following activity will help you recognize and understand the Essential Skills icons that you will see in this workbook.


To learn more about the CLB and the Essential Skills frameworks,  complete this learning module: CLB 5: Introducing the Canadian Language Benchmarks and Essential Skills.

As you did the above activities, you probably noticed that there is overlap between the two systems:

  • The CLB framework groups tasks into Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing skills. The Essential Skills combines speaking and listening into one category called Oral Communication.
  • The Essential Skills framework has three categories related to reading and writing: Reading, Writing, and Document Use. Document Use refers to using forms, charts, and labels.
  • The Essential Skills framework measures other skills that are not addressed in the Canadian Language Benchmarks.

Using the Icons

You will see icons related to the CLB and the Essential Skills at the end of each page in this workbook (see below). The icons point out the CLB skills and the Essential Skills you developed as you did the activities on that page. Use these icons to reflect on what you learned.

Look at the icons below. Did you use these CLB competencies and Essential Skills on this page?

CLB Reading IconES Reading IconES Thinking Icon


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NorQuest LINCWorks - Interviews Workbook CLB 5 Copyright © by NorQuest LINC Works Development Team is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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