ERIC Identifier: ED339749
Publication Date: 1992-03-00
Author: Whetzel, Deborah
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Tests Measurement and Evaluation Washington DC.
The Secretary of Labor's Commission on Achieving Necessary
Skills. ERIC Digest.
What skills will prepare our youth to participate in the modern workplace?
What skill levels do entry-level jobs require? In 1990, Elizabeth Dole, then
secretary of the Department of Labor, established the Secretary's Commission on
Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) to answer these questions.
WHAT ARE WORKPLACE SKILLS?
To find meaningful work, high
school graduates need to master certain workplace skills. SCANS calls these
essentials "foundation skills" and "competencies."
Workers use foundation skills--academic and behavioral characteristics--to
build competencies on. Foundation skills fall into three domains:
basic skills--reading, writing, speaking, listening, and knowing arithmetic and
thinking skills--reasoning, making decisions, thinking creatively, solving
problems, seeing things in the mind's eye, and knowing how to learn; and
personal qualities--responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management,
integrity, and honesty.
Competencies, however, more closely relate to what people actually do at
work. The competencies that SCANS has identified fall into five domains:
resources--identifying, organizing, planning, and allocating time, money,
materials, and workers;
interpersonal skills--negotiating, exercising leadership, working with
diversity, teaching others new skills, serving clients and customers, and
participating as a team member;
information skills--using computers to process information and acquiring and
evaluating, organizing and maintaining, and interpreting and communicating
systems skills--understanding systems, monitoring and correcting system
performance, and improving and designing systems; and
technology utilization skills--selecting technology, applying technology to a
task, and maintaining and troubleshooting technology.
HOW DID SCANS IDENTIFY AND DEFINE THE SKILLS?
SCANS began a
four-step process by first formulating its approach to identifying the skills:
asking commissioners for their comments and suggestions,
visiting successful corporations that stress high-level employee skills, and
reviewing recent research and discussing skills with researchers and analysts.
in a workshop, a panel of experts reviewed this research and suggested a draft
set of initial skills. In clear, understandable terms, these skills describe
what capabilities American workers need.
Second, to define those skills, SCANS reviewed the literature from
psychological, education, and business data bases. The definitions that SCANS
wrote include a description of the skill itself and an illustration of a worker
competently using the skill.
In the third stage, SCANS asked research and business experts, among others,
to review the skills and definitions to determine whether anything was missing
in any domain. These experts also reviewed some examples of how workers might
use the skills.
Fourth, SCANS analyzed jobs in various areas of the economy to see how the
skills apply. SCANS chose a sample of 50 jobs to represent the various
employment sectors identified by the Department of Labor. These 50 jobs
are part of a meaningful career path,
are expected to make up a large proportion of jobs in the future economy, and
call on diverse skills.
Examples include farmer, cosmetologist, personnel specialist, and law
For this job analysis, SCANS asked job experts to review the skill
definitions and to rate how critical each skill is to the jobs. For any skill
that the experts considered highly critical, SCANS asked them to detail a task
requiring a worker to use that skill. Then, SCANS asked the job experts about
critical incidents that would call for workers to proficiently use the skills.
SCANS used the data collected from the job analysis to evaluate how clear and
comprehensive job experts found the skill definitions, and to estimate how
critical the skills are across a range of jobs.
HOW DID SCANS IDENTIFY LEVELS OF SKILL DIFFICULTY?
defining workplace skills, SCANS studied how proficient workers need to be in
each foundation skill and competency.
SCANS scaled the job tasks identified in the job analysis. SCANS asked 20
people to rate the skill level required to effectively perform each job task.
These scaled tasks will become benchmarks for each skill, illustrating several
levels of difficulty for the skills.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
SCANS has two other charges:
suggest effective ways to assess proficiency, and
develop a dissemination strategy for homes, schools, unions, and businesses.
To find ways to assess proficiency, SCANS will consider and report on the
issues involved in assessing students. These issues include authentic assessment
that employers could use in academic and hiring decisions.
To develop a dissemination strategy, SCANS will study issues we must consider
before schools can integrate instruction in the competencies into current
programs. These issues include financial considerations as well as teacher
training and curriculum concerns.
Despite some disagreement over the relevance of these skills (Samuelson,
1991), Lynn Martin, the new Department of Labor secretary, supports the ideas
discussed in the first SCANS report. She believes that in today's economy, we
must do more than educate students about reading, writing, and arithmetic:
"Diplomas must reflect the demands of a changing workplace for broader skills
beyond the 3 Rs" (Martin, 1991).
According to William E. Brock, the chair of SCANS, the end product "must
include the publication of necessary functional and enabling skills which
society must provide to every child in this country by the age of 16. Our
mission, once these are enumerated, must be to bring the progressive forces of
this country to bear on those changes in public education which would allow us
to meet the stated objective. Every school would be affected, every child would
be affected, every workplace would be affected."
Pelavin Associates, the American Institutes for Research, and the Institute
on Education and the Economy provide technical and research support to SCANS.
Martin, L. (1991, July 26). Teaching tomorrow's
Washington Post. Washington, DC. Samuelson, R. J. (1991, July 11). Gibberish
on job skills. The
Washington Post. Washington, DC. U.S. Department of Labor (1991). What work
requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC: The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills.