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Resources from the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks

by Daphné Blouin Carbonneau

Although there is high demand in the Canadian workforce for the skills and knowledge that immigrants have to offer, they continue to face significant challenges in accessing employment. With immigration accounting for a higher-than-ever percentage of labour force growth, career counsellors and career development professionals need to have access to resources to help this clientele find employment in their field of expertise.

Statistics Canada has documented that language proficiency is one of the key determining factors in successfully finding work in Canada. The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB) has developed or collaborated on the development of many assessment resources which support the work of career development practitioners and career counsellors in helping newcomers access employment, language training and bridge-to-employment programs.
Language Benchmarks

CCLB is the centre of expertise for the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) standard and its French counterpart, Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC). These standards are used for describing, measuring and recognizing the English or French language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada. The standards describe the communicative tasks that people can accomplish at 12 Benchmark levels in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

For those not familiar with the CLB, the CCLB has published “Canadian Language Benchmarks for Study and Work” and “Canadian Language Benchmarks for Living and Working in Canada”. These booklets are useful to newcomers and practitioners alike as an overview of the CLB standard and as a tool to help set language goals. Free electronic versions of both booklets and ordering information are available on CCLB’s website at

Assessments and Tools

Counsellors can also refer clients to have their CLB level assessed through one of many CCLB-approved assessments. A good starting point is the Workplace Language Assessment Pre-Screening Tool, which CCLB has developed for counsellors to help them make decisions as to who may need further assessment and language training and who may be ready for employment or other training opportunities.

Of particular interest to clients at the intermediate and advanced levels seeking employment is the Workplace Language Assessment (WLA), which is currently available in Alberta and British Columbia and which CCLB plans to make available in other provinces. This communicative assessment is used to place clients at CLB levels 7-10 into workplace-related training opportunities such as bridge-to-employment programs. Information about the WLA and other CCLB-approved assessments is available on CCLB’s website.


An unofficial on-line tool is also available to give newcomers and other job-seekers a more general idea of their level in English or French. Since 2007 CCLB has collaborated with the Centre for Education and Training on the development of online self-assessment tools based on the CLB and NCLC. The self-assessment is available for listening and reading and presents a range of three possible benchmarks, between CLB or NCLC levels 1 and 9. This information can inform users’ educational and professional goals by helping them determine whether they have attained the language level required for employment or specific training programs. These websites also include information on foreign credentials recognition, language training and other services offered across Canada. Both the French and English tools are available on-line

Mapping Career Paths

Further research and resources from CCLB help counsellors make the link between clients’ CLB or NCLC level and their career goals in order to develop a road map to meeting those goals. Occupational Language Analyses (OLAs) are related to Essential Skills Profiles and National Occupational Standards and can help counsellors and their clients better understand the language skills required to be successful in specific occupations. A database of available OLAs is available at CCLB has also conducted and continues to conduct field studies benchmarking the language demands of specific professions including nursing, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Interested counsellors are invited to contact CCLB at 613.230.7729 or if they wish to obtain further information on these resources or provide feedback about their experiences using them.

Daphné Blouin Carbonneau has worked as an ESL instructor and as a CLB and NCLC language assessor. She now works for CCLB on the continued development of the NCLC on-line self-assessment tool as well as other projects.

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