skip to main content
Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

Essential skills are generally considered the ones needed for most jobs – the ability to read and write (communication), carry out simple arithmetic (numeracy) and use a computer (ICT).

They are often thought of as ‘transferable skills’ because you use them in a variety of situations and workplaces.

An acceptable level of literacy, numeracy and ICT knowledge is vital if a young person is to fully participate in modern society.

If they cannot read it is difficult for them to find work, secure a training place or continue with their studies. Similarly, a young person who is not confident with numbers will struggle to work in retail, hospitality or any other job where basic arithmetic is needed.

Most large employers now insist on online job applications and most applications for benefits must now be completed online – these changes pose problems for anyone without ICT skills.

Essential skills used to be referred to as basic skills.

Leaving school without essential skills

The majority of young people leave school with the essential skills they need to go on to further or higher education, start a training course or find a job.

Unfortunately, many young people fall through the net – often for reasons that have nothing to do with their own efforts or academic ability – and leave school without the basic skills to equip them for adult life.

The important thing is that they are supported to get back on track, develop their essential skills and fulfil their potential.

Helping young people to attain essential skills

Young people without skills or qualifications are often more motivated to learn in a non-school environment.

Essential skills courses are available across Wales in community education settings, e.g. in local libraries, community colleges, third sector organisations, etc.

Fees vary depending on the provider and the individual’s age and circumstances; however they are usually very low (and some courses are free). Crèche facilities are sometimes available.

Young parents who have missed out on vital schooling might enjoy family learning courses which cover literacy, numeracy and digital literacy. These courses can also help parents to support their children’s learning while learning new skills themselves.

Gaining qualifications

Essential Skills Wales Qualifications are for over 16s (and occasionally over 14s) and focus on the practical application of number, communication and digital literacy skills as well as employability skills. There are different level courses, starting at entry level. The qualifications can be taken as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship and in work-based and community settings.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

ESOL courses are for learners who do not speak English or Welsh. Some areas provide the opportunity for learners to learn Welsh too. Contact your local council or voluntary council for more information.

Last updated: 23/02/2023