Essential skills for career success

In this five-part series, BioTalent Canada examines the importance of essential skills in creating a successful career in the Canadian bio-economy.

Essential skills are considered foundational, transferable, and enabling. Without adequate essential skills, it is difficult to learn higher order, occupation-specific skills.

The Government of Canada has identified nine essential skills that are required, to one degree or another, for Canadians to be successful at their jobs. These skills include:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Numeracy
  • Document Use
  • Critical Thinking
  • Digital Technology
  • Oral communication
  • Working with others
  • Continuous learning

Essential skills and their importance in career development are often neglected, but the benefits they offer individuals entering their first career, as well as those already established, are countless.

BioTalent Canada sat down with Lester Wood, Executive Director, Human Resources at BioVectra, to learn how essential skills have helped BioVectra shine as an employer of choice and succeed in a competitive sector.

BioTalent Canada: Why is it important for companies in Canada’s bio-economy to consider essential skills when recruiting or onboarding new hires?

Lester Wood: Essential skills training levels the playing field for everyone entering the biotech workforce, i.e. everyone will have the basic skills they need to be productive and successful. This will become more important as we see the trend to hiring more internationally trained workers, people from non-biotech backgrounds and students hired to fill the growing demand for employees in the biotech industry.

BioTalent Canada: What inspired BioVectra to take part in BioTalent Canada’s Essential Skill Training pilot?

Lester Wood: BioVectra has a strong relationship and partnership with BioTalent Canada. The opportunity to participate in this program fills a skills gap that we are seeing with new hires. We seemed to be the perfect organization to pilot the essential skills program due to our significant and ongoing growth and the diversity of our current employees in terms of skill level and length of tenure.

BioTalent Canada: Have you seen any impact within BioVectra’s team since taking part in the pilot program?

Lester Wood: I think it is too soon to tell what the long-term impact will be, but “the buzz” immediately following the training is that everyone who participated, regardless of skill level or tenure, walked away with at least one new learning and for many it was thought provoking on skills they had taken for granted.

I would expect to see new hires who complete the essential skills training to become competent in their new role more quickly than those without the essentials skills training. At BioVectra, we anticipate a positive impact on the number of CAPAs (Corrective Actions and Preventive Actions) and deviations on the production floor and in the labs.

BioTalent Canada: How do you see BioVectra including essential skills training within the organization?

Lester Wood: I see essentials skills training being incorporated into the orientation training that we give our new employees. It would give everyone the basic knowledge they need in order to hit the ground running. I also see essential skills training increasing our quality and reducing the number of CAPAs and deviations.

BioTalent Canada: If you knew potential hires had essential skills training prior to starting, would it be beneficial? Would it make the recruitment process easier?

Lester Wood: If we knew potential employees had essential skills Training prior to starting, it would give those candidates an edge over those without the training. It will provide employers with an increased level of confidence in the knowledge and skills those employees brought to the workplace starting day one.

Essential skills ‘testing or evaluation’ could form part of the recruiting process and would definitely be beneficial as part of orientation.

BioTalent Canada: What advice would you give to other bio-economy companies looking to include essential skills training as part of their recruiting or onboarding process?

Lester Wood: While everyone’s organizational circumstances are unique, just as every new hire’s skillset is unique, offering essential skills training starts everyone off with the basic skills and knowledge to be successful and add value to their organization.

BioTalent Canada will be launching a unique training program specific to address the essential skills shortages in the Canadian bio-economy workforce. For more information on this project, visit