School-to-Work is an effort to achieve better workforce preparedness for students—all with a view toward America being better able to compete in a global economy. It's also an effort by educators to provide a career pathway for students—a bridge that leads from the relative shelter of the often theoretical classroom to the often harsh and competitive world of work. School-to-Work is a career pathway for all students—those who are college bound and those who are not.

In June 1991, the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) (U.S. Department of Labor) released a report called "What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000." In this report, employers stated the need that businesses have for honest, loyal employees who have already internalized concepts such as positive work ethic. Employers are increasingly demanding these qualities in potential employees as well as technical and academic skills. In fact, it's much easier for employers to teach new employees the technical aspects of a job than it is to teach them honesty and integrity.

The SCANS report states clearly to educators what competencies workers need to operate effectively in the modern workplace. This report leaves little question about what conditions employees need to operate within and what skills they will need to have and use.

The SCANS report suggested that effective individuals can productively use the five competencies of resources, interpersonal skills, information, systems, and technology.

The SCANS report also pointed to three "foundation skills" that competent individuals in the high-performance workplace need to have: basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities.

Five Competencies

  1. Resources: Identifies, organizes, plans, and allocates resources.
    1. Time—Selects goal-relevant activities and ranks them; allocates time; prepares and follows schedules.
    2. Money—Uses or prepares budgets; makes forecasts; keeps records; makes adjustments to meet objectives.
    3. Material and Facilities—Acquires, stores, allocates, and uses materials or space efficiently.
    4. Human Resources—Assesses skills and distributes work accordingly; evaluates performance and provides feedback.

  2. Interpersonal: Works with others.
    1. Participates as a Member of a Team—Contributes to group efforts.
    2. Teaches Others New Skills.
    3. Serves Clients/Customers—Works to satisfy customers' expectations.
    4. Exercises Leadership—Communicates ideas to justify position; persuades and convinces others; responsibly challenges existing procedures and policies.
    5. Negotiates—Works toward agreements involving the exchange of resources; resolves divergent interests.
    6. Works With Diversity—Works well with men and women from diverse backgrounds.

  3. Information: Acquires and uses information.
    1. Acquires and Evaluates Information.
    2. Organizes and Maintains Information.
    3. Interprets and Communicates Information.
    4. Uses Computers to Process Information.

  4. Systems: Understands complex inter-relationships.
    1. Understands Systems—Knows how social, organizational, and technological systems work and operates effectively with them.
    2. Monitors and Corrects Performance—Distinguishes trends; predicts impacts on system operations; diagnoses deviations in systems' performance and corrects malfunctions.
    3. Improves or Designs Systems—Suggests modifications to existing systems and develops new or alternative systems to improve performance.

  5. Technology: Works with a variety of technologies.
    1. Selects Technology—Chooses procedures, tools, or equipment, including computers and other technologies.
    2. Applies Technology to Task—Understands the overall intent and proper procedures for the setup and operation of equipment.
    3. Maintains and Troubleshoots Equipment—Prevents, identifies, or solves problems with equipment, including computers and other technologies.

A Three-Part Foundation for Future Members of the Workforce

  1. Basic Skills: Reads, writes, performs arithmetic and mathematical operations, listens, and speaks.
    1. Reading—Locates, understands, and interprets written information in prose and in documents such as manuals, graphs, and schedules.
    2. Writing—Communicates thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing; creates documents such as letters, directions, manuals, reports, graphs, and flow charts.
    3. Arithmetic/Mathematics—Performs basic computations and approaches practical problems by choosing appropriately from a variety of mathematical techniques.
    4. Listening—Receives, attends to, interprets, and responds to verbal messages and other cues.
    5. Speaking—Organizes ideas and communicates orally.

  2. Thinking Skills: Thinks creatively, makes decisions, solves problems, visualizes, knows how to learn, and reasons.
    1. Creative Thinking—Generates new ideas.
    2. Decision Making—Specifies goals and constraints; generates alternatives; considers risks; evaluates and chooses the best alternative.
    3. Problem Solving—Recognizes problems and devises and implements a plan of action.
    4. Seeing Things in the Mind's Eye—Organizes and processes symbols, pictures, graphs, objects, and other information.
    5. Knowing How to Learn—Uses efficient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills.
    6. Reasoning—Discovers a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and applies it in solving a problem.

  3. Personal Qualities: Displays responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, and integrity and honesty.
    1. Responsibility—Exerts a high level of effort and perseveres toward goal attainment.
    2. Self-Esteem—Believes in own self-worth and maintains a positive view of self.
    3. Sociability—Demonstrates understanding, friendliness, adaptability, empathy, and politeness in group settings.
    4. Self-Management—Assesses self accurately; sets personal goals; monitors progress; exhibits self-control.
    5. Integrity/Honesty—Chooses ethical courses of action.

Learning for Life and SCANS

Learning for Life can be a valuable enhancement to schools that helps students acquire and internalize these competencies and foundation skills outlined in the SCANS report.

Learning for Life in this way makes a real contribution to preparing students for the world of work. Schools will find the Learning for Life curricular material extremely helpful in implementing a comprehensive School-to-Careers system for students, particularly in the area of "soft skills," such as integrity, honesty, and responsibility—skills that are no less valuable than computer skills or other "hard skills" in the workplace.

The following material will help relate the Learning for Life lesson plans and workshops to specific SCANS competencies and foundation skills, thereby making Learning for Life more desirable for schools to use in their School-to-Work plans, from kindergarten through grade 12, and beyond.

Copyright © 2005 · Learning for Life