ERIC Identifier: ED399484
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: McLaughlin, MaryAnn
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).

Employability Skills Profile: What Are Employers Looking For? ERIC Digest.

One of the goals of education in every province and territory in Canada is to prepare young people to participate in paid work: as employees or self-employed. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, both employers and educators were voicing similar concerns and looking for ways to work together to meet this goal. Employers faced enormous changes in a highly competitive global marketplace. The new economy demanded new ways of thinking, new ways of managing, and new ways of working. As the nature and look of jobs changed, the level of education and skills required also changed. Many educators faced the challenge of preparing young people to participate in the increasingly complex and changing world of work by calling on employers to articulate and communicate their needs better.

A major project of the Conference Board of Canada's Corporate Council on Education was to identify and communicate the skills that they require as employers of half a million Canadians.


The Process and the Product.

The process began with a review of literature and unpublished reports about the mix of skills that employers expect to find in new recruits. Building on a framework of Academic, Personal Management, and Teamwork Skills used by a Michigan Employability Skills Task Force (1989), the Corporate Council drafted a list of skills in each category, based on the hiring criteria of the companies they represented. For simplicity the Profile used the word "skills" to represent the set of characteristics that make a person employable, including knowledge, know-how, attitudes, and behaviors. One of the guiding principles in the Employability Skills Profile was that the skills needed for a high-quality Canadian work force now and in the future must be generic foundational skills rather than skills specific to certain occupations, levels of responsibility, or limited to today's jobs.

The next stage involved review of the draft Employability Skills Profile by other Canadian employers, including small business educators from all levels, labor, government, equity groups, and community groups. The review consisted of a questionnaire and meetings with about 100 human-resource professionals. There was strong agreement that this type of profile would be of significant value, offering national direction for all organizations and individuals concerned with education and training in Canada. There were also many suggestions for refinements in wording or further specification of skills already listed.

With the publication of the "Employability Skills Profile" in May 1992, 25 major employers stated that employers in Canada were looking for the following traits:

People who can communicate, think, and continue to learn throughout their lives.

People who can demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviors, responsibility, and adaptability.

People who can work with others.

Employers stated that they placed equal emphasis on each of these characteristics and that the skills in each category were not listed in any order of priority. In the workplace, as in school, the skills were integrated and used in varying combinations, depending on the nature of the job.

In June 1992, the Conference Board conducted meetings with 200 representatives of stakeholder groups to address a central question: How close is this list to the overall foundation skills that young people need to develop in order to be fully participating members of society? These meetings were hosted by educators. They agreed that the profile outlined foundational skills that all Canadians should acquire in their formative years, to enhance citizenship, self-fulfillment, and employability or self-employment.


The Employability Skills Profile has been widely used by educators, employers, career counselors, as well as other interested organizations in Canada and other countries. In 1993-94, the Conference Board undertook a related study to respond to many requests for information on how to implement the profile. One of the key findings of a review of 225 partnerships, projects, and programs was that two major techniques help achieve the objective of developing students' employability skills: infusing the skills into existing subject-specific curriculum, and adding a skills component to career preparation, work experience courses, or business-education partnership activities.


In an attempt to address the changing skills needed to be successful in today's workforce, the Conference Board of Canada developed an Employability Skills Profile, based on input from employers and validated by a wide range of stakeholders. The Profile has quickly become a benchmark which educators, counselors, and businesses use to identify the foundational skills necessary for successful living.


McLaughlin, M. (1992). "Employability Skills Profile: What Are Employers Looking For?" (Report 81-92-E). Ottawa, ON: Conference Board of Canada.

Bloom, M. (1994). "Enhancing Employability Skills: Innovative Partnerships, Projects and Programs" (Report 118-94). Ottawa, ON: Conference Board of Canada.

MaryAnn McLaughlin is the Director of the National Business and Education Centre, The Conference Board of Canada.


--Academic Skills--

Those skills which provide the basic foundation to get, keep, and progress on a job to achieve the best results.

Canadian employers need a person who can:

- Communicate

Understand and speak the languages in which business is conducted

Listens to understand and learn

Read, comprehend, and use written materials, including graphs, charts, and displays

Write effectively in the languages in which business is conducted

- Think

Think critically and act logically to evaluate situations, solve problems and make decisions

Understand and solve problems involving mathematics and use the results

Use technology, instruments, tools, and information systems effectively

Access and apply specialized knowledge from various fields (e.g., skilled trades, technology, physical sciences, arts, and social sciences)

- Learn

Continue to learn for life

--Personal Management Skills--

The combination of skills, attitudes, and behaviours required to get, keep, and progress on a job and to achieve the best results

Canadian employers need a person who can demonstrate:

- Positive Attitudes and Behaviors

Self-esteem and confidence

Honesty, integrity and personal ethics

A positive attitude toward learning, growth, and personal health

Initiative, energy, and persistence to get the job done

- Responsibility

The ability to set goals and priorities in work and personal life

The ability to plan and manage time, money, and other resources to achieve goals

Accountability for actions taken

- Adaptability

A positive attitude toward change

Recognition of and respect for people's diversity and individual differences

The ability to identify and suggest new ideas to get the job done--creativity

--Teamwork Skills--

Those skills needed to work with others on a job and to achieve the best results

Canadian employers need a person who can:

Work with Others

Understand and contribute to the organization's goals

Understand and work within the culture of the group

Plan and make decisions with others and support the outcomes

Respect the thoughts and opinions of others in the group

Exercise "give and take" to achieve group results

Seek a team approach as appropriate

Lead when appropriate, mobilizing the group for high performance

(This document was developed by the Corporate Council on Education, a program of the National Business and Education Centre, The Conference Board of Canada. This profile outlines foundation skills for employability. For individuals and for schools, preparing for work or employability is one of several goals, all of which are important for society.)

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