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The Creation of the SCANS Report

The SCANS program was initially developed for high school students, but was later expanded to include students in community colleges.

The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) had its conception in a series of initiatives launched by Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole in November 1989. In announcing the initiatives, Dole charged that "Simply put, America's workforce is in a state of unreadiness... unready for the new jobs, unready for the new realities, unready for the new challenges of the '90s. "

The unreadiness is due to the "revolutionary changes" in the workplace over the past several years, the Secretary said, As a result jobs demand better reading, writing and reasoning skills and more math and science.

For example, Dole explained, a car mechanic needed to understand 5,000 pages of service manuals in 1965. Today, that same mechanic must be able to decipher 465,000 pages of technical text. And this trend will continue: the jobs that will experience the most growth will be in the service, managerial and skilled technical fields .

She charged that the needs of the workplace are not being met by the skills of the workforce:

"A dream has pervaded this country for over two hundred years," Dole explained, "that any American could, through hard work and dedication, rise to the top and succeed in building a better life for himself and his children... We are now in danger of losing that dream. For if you do not possess the basic skills required to survive in today's world, then you can not get into the system, you can not get a job, you can not succeed, and you will spend a lifetime on the outside looking in."

Dole announced a number of initiatives, among them her intention to convene a panel to develop "national competency guidelines for work readiness." These guidelines would serve as a definition of "what skills employer require and workers need on the job-what's necessary in critical thinking, problem-solving, communicating, listening and adapting through math, science and other disciplines," Dole said. The panel would be called the "Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills" or SCANS Commission.


Lastly, the Commission concluded that the most effective way of learning any skill is "in context", placing learning objectives within a real environment rather than insisting that the student first learn in the abstract what they will be expected to apply.

In its final report, the Commission identifies five competencies and a three-part foundation of skills and personal qualities that are required in the world of work. These eight SCANS skills represent the essential preparation for all students including those going directly to work out of high school and those planning to go to a higher education institution.

Workplace Skills

Dole charged the new commission to work closely with business and educators to articulate clearly what skills are needed to survive in the workplace, the acceptable levels of proficiency and the most effective means of measuring the skills.

Dole asked the commission to: