What Employers Say Students Should Know and Be Able To Do

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report, issued in 1991 on the heels of the Bush Administration’s national goals statement, placed student learning objectives within the context of a real environment-the competencies and capacities that “today’s high-performance employer seeks in tomorrow’s employee.”

Teaching and learning the following competencies, the report argued, must become the tasks of U.S. schools and students. Students should become skilled at managing or using:

  1. Resources. Workers schedule time, budget funds, arrange space, or assign staff.
  2. Interpersonal skills. Competent employees are skilled team members and teachers of new workers; they serve clients directly and persuade co-workers either individually or in groups; they negotiate with others to solve problems or reach decisions; they work comfortably with colleagues from diverse backgrounds; and they responsibly challenge existing procedures and policies.
  3. Information. Workers are expected to identify, assimilate, and integrate information from diverse sources; they prepare, maintain, and interpret quantitative and qualitative records; they convert information from one form to another and are comfortable conveying information orally and in writing as the need arises.
  4. Systems. Effective workers understand their own work in the context of the work of those around them; they understand how parts of systems are connected, anticipate consequences, and monitor and correct their own performance; they can identify trends and anomalies in system performance, integrate multiple displays of data, and link symbols (e.g., displays on a computer screen) with real phenomena (e.g., machine performance).
  5. Technology. Technology today is everywhere, demanding high levels of competence in selecting and using appropriate technology, visualizing operations, using technology to monitor tasks, and maintaining and troubleshooting complex equipment.

In addition, SCANS identified a three-part foundation of intellectual skills and personal qualities they considered part of each of the above five competencies:

  1. Basic skills. Reading, writing, mathematics (arithmetical computation and mathematical reasoning), listening, and speaking.
  2. Thinking skills. Creative thinking, making decisions, solving problems, seeing things in the mind’s eye, knowing how to learn, and reasoning.
  3. Personal qualities. Individual responsibility as well as self-esteem, sociability, self- management, and integrity.

[For a copy of the SCANS report contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Z20 Constitution Ave. NW, Room C-2318, Washington, DC 20210, or call   1-800-788-SKILL    1-800-788-SKILL .]