SCANS Workplace Skills Your Children Will Need

Teacher Reading a Picture Book to Students
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We all want our children to be successful in life. We hope to one day see them in satisfying careers with the promise of growth. The thought of our children ending up in dead-end jobs saddens us. We wonder, though, if there's anything we can do to help ensure their success.

In 1990, then Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin wondered the same thing and formed the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, commonly referred to as SCANS. It was comprised of representatives from schools, government, labor unions, and corporate America. Martin charged the Commission with the task of examining the demands of the workplace and determining whether American youth are capable of meeting those demands. By 1992, SCANS had completed its work. After talking to employers, supervisors, workers, and union officials, the Commission identified a set of five competencies and three foundation skills that everyone entering the workforce must have. Together these competencies and skills became known as SCANS skills.

SCANS Skills

These are the eight areas the Commission identified as being essential for both students who are going directly to work after high school and those who will attend college before entering the workforce. The five competencies and three foundation skills are intertwined—they are used together and should be learned together. Although this list was developed a while ago, it is still relevant for today's and tomorrow's workforce.

The Five Competencies

In order to be effective, those who are in the workforce must be able to effectively use resources, interpersonal skills, information, systems, and technology. Let's take a look at each of these competencies more closely:


The ability to allocate resources is essential. Resources include:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Material and facility resources
  • Human resources


To succeed at work one must be able to interact with other people. By the time an individual enters the workforce he or she should be able to:

  • Participate as a member of a team
  • Teach others
  • Serve clients or customers
  • Exercise leadership
  • Negotiate
  • Work with people from diverse backgrounds


Information is a valuable commodity. One must know how to:

  • Acquire and evaluate information
  • Organize and maintain information
  • Interpret and communicate information
  • Use computers to process information


A system is a group of components—technological, organizational and social—that must interact in order to function properly. Successful workers must:

  • Understand systems
  • Be able to monitor and correct the performance of a system's components
  • Be able to improve and design systems


Technology refers to the equipment, procedures, and tools one uses to perform certain workplace tasks. They vary by occupation. One must have the knowledge to:

  • Select technology
  • Apply the appropriate technology to a task
  • Maintain and troubleshoot technology

The Three Foundation Skills

In addition to the competencies described above, everyone must enter the workforce having mastered the following foundation skills:

Basic Skills

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematical computation and mathematical reasoning
  • Listening
  • Speaking

Thinking Skills

  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving
  • The ability to see things in the mind's eye
  • Knowing how to learn
  • Reasoning

Personal Qualities

  • Individual responsibility
  • Self-esteem
  • Sociability
  • Self-management
  • Integrity

So now, instead of wondering whether your child will be successful, you can make sure she has the necessary skills. Find out if your child's school is incorporating SCANS skills into its curriculum and if they aren't, it's time to start asking questions. You should also reinforce the SCANS skills at home.