SCANS 2000: What is SCANS?
In the early 1990s, the United States Department of Labor appointed a commission to study 50 occupations and identify the "know-how" workers need to perform their jobs well.
The commission, called SCANS (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills), spent 12 months talking to business owners, public employers, managers, union officials, and entry-level to senior workers in a variety of industries. The prevailing message they heard everywhere was this:
Good jobs depend on people who can put knowledge to work. New workers must be creative and responsible problem solvers and have the skills and attitudes on which employers can build. Traditional jobs are changing and new jobs are created everyday. High paying but unskilled jobs are disappearing. Employers and employees share the belief that all workplaces must "work smarter."1
The SCANS commission released its SCANS Report in 1992. The report remains relevant and compelling in the new century. It documents the global and technological forces behind the changing American workplace and challenges American schools to reinvent themselves to make school curricula and teaching methods more relevant to the modern workplace (collaborative learning projects, teacher as facilitator, emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking, and real-world, scenario-based assignments, among others).
1Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance. A SCANS Report for America 2000. U.S. Department of Labor, 1992.
The SCANS Report identifies a group specific competencies and foundation skills that are required to succeed in the workplace.
The competencies are functional skills that reflect what people in a wide range of jobs actually do at work, regardless of their field or position. The competencies differ from a person's technical knowledge and skills. For example, an accountant and a manufacturing technician have different technical skills, but they both need to be competent at understanding and communicating information, managing resources, and using technology effectively.
The SCANS Commission identified five general areas of competence:
Resources. The ability to identify, organize, plan, and allocate resources.
Interpersonal. The ability to work well with others
Information. The ability to acquire and use information.
Systems. The ability to understand complex interrelationships.
The ability to work with a variety of technologies
The list that follows shows some sample tasks for each general competency and lists the specific skills in each area.
Selects relevant, goal-related activities, ranks them in order of importance, allocates time to activities, and understands, prepares, and follows schedules.
Uses or prepares budgets, including making cost and revenue forecasts; keeps detailed records to track budget performance; and makes appropriate adjustments.
Manages Material and Facility Resources
Acquires, stores, and distributes materials, supplies, parts, equipment, space, or final products in order to make the best use of them.
Manages Human Resources
Assesses knowledge and skills, distributes work accordingly, evaluates performance, and provides feedback.
Participates as a Member of a Team
Works cooperatively with others and contributes to group efforts with ideas, suggestions, and effort.
Helps others learn needed knowledge and skills.
Works and communicates with clients and customers to satisfy their expectations.
Communicates thoughts, feelings, and ideas to justify a position, encourage, persuade, convince, or otherwise motivate an individual or groups, including responsibly challenging existing procedures, policies, or authority.
Negotiates to Arrive at a Decision
Works towards an agreement that may involve exchanging specific resources or resolving divergent interests.
Works with Cultural Diversity
Works well with men and women and with people from a variety of ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds.
Acquires and Evaluates Information
Identifies a need for data, obtains the data from existing sources or creates them, and evaluates their relevance and accuracy.
Organizes and Maintains Information
Organizes, processes, and maintains written or computerized records and other forms of information in a systematic fashion.
Interprets and Communicates Information
Selects and analyzes information and communicates the results to others using oral, written, graphic, pictorial, or multimedia methods.
Uses Computers to Process Information
Employs computers to acquire, organize, analyze, and communicate information.
Knows how social, organizational, and technological systems work and operates effectively within them.
Monitors and Corrects Performance
Distinguishes trends, predicts impacts of actions on system operations, diagnoses deviations in the functioning of a system/organization, and takes necessary action to correct performance.
Improves and Designs Systems
Makes suggestions to modify existing systems in order to improve the quality of products or services and develops new or alternative systems.
Judges which sets of procedures, tools, or machines, including computers and their programs, will produce the desired results.
Applies Technology to Task
Understands the overall intents and the proper procedures for setting up and operating machines, including computers and their programming systems.
Maintains and Troubleshoots Technology
Prevents, identifies, or solves problems in machines, computers, and other technologies.
SCANS Foundation Skills
Individuals must have a strong foundation is several basic skills in order to achieve competence in the five SCANS skills areas described above.
The commission identified a three-part foundation of intellectual skills and personal qualities that underlie the SCANS competencies:
Basic skills. Read, write, perform mathematical operations, listen, and speak.
The basic skills are the minimum skills required for even low-skill jobs.
Thinking skills. Think creatively, make decisions, solve problems, visualize, learn and apply new knowledge and skills.
The thinking skills permit workers to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate complexity. They are the true raw materials from which the five competencies are built.
Personal qualities. Responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity, honesty.
These personal qualities are so important that their absence can quickly disqualify any job seeker at any level of accomplishment.
The list that follows shows some sample tasks for each area and defines the specific skills in each area.
Locates, understands, and interprets written information in prose and documents-including manuals, graphs, and schedules-to perform tasks; learns from text by determining the main idea or essential message; identifies relevant details, facts, and specifications; infers or locates the meaning of unknown or technical vocabulary; and judges the accuracy, appropriateness, style, and plausibility of reports, proposals, or theories of other writers.
Communicates thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing; records information completely and accurately; composes and creates documents such as letters, directions, manuals, reports, proposals, graphs, and flow charts with the language, style, organization, and format appropriate to the subject matter, purpose, and audience; includes, where appropriate, supporting documentation, and attends to level of detail; and checks, edits, and revises for correct information, appropriate emphasis, form, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Performs basic computations; uses basic numerical concepts such as whole numbers and percentages in practical situations; makes reasonable estimates of arithmetic results without a calculator; and uses tables, graphs, diagrams, and charts to obtain or convey quantitative information.
Approaches practical problems by choosing appropriately from a variety of mathematical techniques; uses quantitative data to construct logical explanations for real world situations; expresses mathematical ideas and concepts orally and in writing; and understands the role of chance in the occurrence and prediction of events.
Receives, attends to, interprets, and responds to verbal messages and other cues such as body language in ways that are appropriate to the purpose-for example, to comprehend, learn, critically evaluate, appreciate, or support the speaker.
Organizes ideas and communicates oral messages appropriate to listeners and situations; participates in conversation, discussion, and group presentations; selects an appropriate medium for conveying a message; uses verbal language and other cues such as body language in a way appropriate in style, tone, and level of complexity to the audience and the occasion; speaks clearly and communicates a message; understands and responds to listener feedback; and asks questions when needed.
Generates new ideas by making nonlinear or unusual connections, changing or reshaping goals, and imagining new possibilities; and uses imagination freely, combining ideas or information in new ways, making connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, and reshaping goals in ways that reveal new possibilities.
Specifies goals and constraints, generates alternatives, considers risks, and evaluates and chooses best alternatives.
Recognizes that a problem exists (i.e., that there is a discrepancy between what is and what should be); identifies possible reasons for the discrepancy, and devises and implements a plan of action to resolve it; and evaluates and monitors progress, revising the plan as indicated by findings.
Sees things in the mind's eye by organizing and processing symbols, pictures, graphs, objects, or other information-for example, sees a building from a blueprint, a system's operation from schematics, the flow of work activities from narrative descriptions, or the taste of food from reading a recipe.
Knowing How to Learn
Recognizes and can use learning techniques to apply and adapt existing and new knowledge and skills in both familiar and changing situations; and is aware of learning tools such as personal learning styles (visual, aural, etc.), formal learning strategies (note-taking or clustering items that share some characteristics), and informal learning strategies (awareness of unidentified false assumptions that may lead to faulty conclusions).
Discovers a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and applies it in solving a problem-for example, uses logic to draw conclusions from available information, extracts rules or principles from a set of objects or a written text, or applies rules and principles to a new situation (or determines which conclusions are correct when given a set of facts and conclusions).
Exerts a high level of effort and perseverance toward goal attainment; works hard to become excellent at doing tasks by setting high standards, paying attention to details, working well even when assigned an unpleasant task, and displaying a high level of concentration; and displays high standards of attendance, punctuality, enthusiasm, vitality, and optimism in approaching and completing tasks.
Believes in own self-worth and maintains a positive view of self, demonstrates knowledge of own skills and abilities, is aware of one's impression on others, and knows own emotional capacity and needs and how to address them.
Demonstrates understanding, friendliness, adaptability, empathy, and politeness in new and ongoing group settings; asserts self in familiar and unfamiliar social situations; relates well to others; responds appropriately as the situation requires; and takes an interest in what others say and do.
Accurately assesses own knowledge, skills, and abilities; sets well-defined and realistic personal goals; monitors progress toward goal attainment and motivates self through goal achievement; and exhibits self-control and responds to feedback unemotionally and non-defensively.
Recognizes when being faced with making a decision or exhibiting behavior that may break with commonly held personal or societal values; understands the effects of violating these beliefs and codes on an organization, oneself, and others; and chooses an ethical course of action.
The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance. A SCANS Report for America 2000. U.S. Department of Labor, 1992.
______. Teaching the SCANS Competencies. U.S. Department of Labor, 1993.
______. What Work Requires of Schools. A SCANS Report for America 2000. U.S. Department of Labor, 1992.