Skills and Competencies Taxonomy

In order to complement other federal, provincial, and territorial employment programs involving skills identification and utilization, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has developed a Skills and Competencies Taxonomy, which is helping to facilitate a Pan-Canadian dialogue on competencies.

The Taxonomy streamlines the terminology of hundreds of occupational descriptors used in the labour market. Each descriptor is associated with one of the eight main categories (skills, abilities, personal attributes, knowledge, interests, work context, work activities, and tools and technologies), which are then further divided into sub-categories. The Taxonomy improves the comparability of concepts and their application throughout occupations and sectors.

The Taxonomy was constructed based on internal products (e.g., Career Handbook, Skills and Knowledge Checklist, and Essential Skills profiles), the American O*NET system, and a variety of national and international competency-based frameworks.

The Skills and Competencies Taxonomy is an evergreen product. ESDC continues to consult with internal and external stakeholders to validate and improve its content.

The Essential Skills, a product of EDSC-Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, was incorporated in the first publication of the Taxonomy in July 2019. Since then, a new model named Skills for Success was developed and launched in May 2021 by ESDC-Office of Skills for Success.

While there is general commonality of meaning between the descriptors in the Taxonomy and the Skills for Success model, there are some differences in their definitions due to distinct purposes between the two models. The Taxonomy is a product directly related to the world of work and occupations, while the Skills for Success model is a product intended to help people to become active members of their community, succeed in learning, and find success in the world of work. The Skills for Success model is for individual learners, employers, and trainers. Each skill has a series of components to simplify the learning steps towards the goal of mastering the given skill in the context of a specific occupation. The Skills and Competencies Taxonomy is a tool for analysts, researchers, employment counsellors and employers, as well as for anyone seeking practical information about work and skills, such as job seekers, students, and parents.

Most importantly, the Taxonomy is used as a framework for the Occupational and Skills Information System (OaSIS) which contains the measurement indicators of most descriptors in the Taxonomy for over 900 occupations. Finally, the Taxonomy is intended to complement the Skills for Success model.

Note on the nuance between “skills” and “competencies”

In the field of competencies, there is a debate among English speakers about the use of the terms "skills" and "competencies". According to the literature, there is a nuance between the two, namely that competencies presume the use of skills, as well as personal abilities and attributes to perform a task or respond to a request. However, with this clarification, we recognize that the title of the Taxonomy is not accurate because its content also includes work activities, work context, and tools and technologies used.

Consistent with the existing literature, ESDC proposes the following term definitions for the Skills and Competencies Taxonomy:


Explore over 250 skills and competencies within an organized structure

Additional information

Find more information about the Taxonomy

SCT versions

Read about the latest changes and consult the previous versions.

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