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Getting Your Child Ready for Work

What Skills Will Your Child Need to Succeed?


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 seeing our children in dead-end jobs saddens us. We wonder, though, if there's anything we can do to help ensure that they are successful.

In 1990, then Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin, wondered the same thing and formed the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS). Martin asked the Commission, comprised of representatives from schools, government, unions, and corporate America, to examine the demands of the workplace and to determine whether American youth are capable of meeting those demands. After a year of talking to employers, supervisors, workers, and union officials, the Commission identified a set of competencies and foundation skills, known as SCANS skills, that everyone entering the workforce must have.

SCANS Skills

Following 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 are going on to college. SCANS skills are made up of five competencies and three foundation skills. Competencies and foundation skills are intertwined -- They are used together and should be learned together.

The Five Competencies


  • allocates time
  • allocates money
  • allocates material and facility resources
  • allocates human resources


  • participates as a member of a team
  • teaches others
  • serves clients/customers
  • exercises leadership
  • negotiates
  • works with cultural diversity


  • acquires and evaluates information
  • organizes and maintains information
  • interprets and communicates information
  • uses computers to process information.


  • understands systems
  • monitors and corrects performance
  • improves and designs systems


  • selects technology
  • applies technology to task
  • maintains and troubleshoots technology

The Three Foundation Skills

Basic Skills:

  • reading
  • writing
  • mathematics (arithmetical computation and mathematical reasoning)
  • listening
  • speaking

Thinking Skills:

  • creative thinking
  • making decisions
  • solving problems
  • seeing 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. Make sure your child's school is incorporating SCANS skills into its curriculum. Then reinforce the SCANS skills at home.

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