Trends in Selected Entry-Level Technology, Interpersonal, and Basic Communication SCANS Skills: 1992-2002

Article excerpt

The authors describe a longitudinal study that was conducted to identify trends in entry-level technology, interpersonal, and basic communication competencies and skills using classified newspaper advertisements from 10 U.S. standard metropolitan statistical areas. To date, 4,200 advertisements have been analyzed for 2 competencies and 1 foundational skill from the "Workplace Know-Hews" identified in the 1991 report of the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS). Data for the year 2002 indicated that the workplace continues to seek the competencies and skills advocated by the SCANS authors.

Today's workplace has changed dramatically, and the rapid changes that have occurred in the workplace are expected to continue. In fact, the nature of work itself has changed. New jobs, new skill requirements, new ways of working, and rapid obsolescence are four issues that are contributing to this change (Morris & Massie, 1999). Today's workers face a fluid career track; thus, their ability to be flexible enough to adapt to a changing marketplace will be the most valuable skill. Success will depend primarily on workers having a mix of skills, from academic credentials and technical competencies to more generic occupation skills--as described by the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) Report (see Mathias, 2002).

Employers are seeking employees who can demonstrate two very different competencies and skills at the same time: domains of knowledge and skills that transfer (Morris & Massie, 1999). Domains of knowledge involve sets of facts and concepts, along with an understanding of how to perform actions within a domain, such as an accounting system or a marketing department. Skills that transfer extend across general domains of work activities, such as project planning. Employers consider skills that transfer to be far more important in the workplace because domains of knowledge change rapidly, especially in the areas of technology and media.

BACKGROUND

To address workplace changes, the U.S. Department of Labor and Education formed SCANS to study the competencies and skills that workers must have to succeed in the workplace (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). The results were presented in two SCANS reports that recommended fundamental changes in education and work.

The first SCANS Report, What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000 (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991), identified five "Workplace Know-Hows" that are necessary for solid job performance, based on a three-part foundation of basic skills and personal qualities. The mix of competencies and skills are presented in Figure 1 (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991).

The second SCANS Report, Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance (U.S. Department of Labor, 1992), identified these Know-Hows as necessary competencies and correlated them with high wages. These reports have become the foundation for training in industry, education, and government agencies.

New jobs and skills requirements are evident in today's workplace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that between 2000 and 2010, total employment in the United States will grow by 22 million, an employment number that is similar to that for the decade 1990-2000. However, growth in percentage terms will be slower--15% from 2000 to 2010 compared with 17% between 1990 and 2000 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001). The service-producing sector and professional and related occupations were projected to increase the fastest and to add the most jobs. These two groups--on opposite ends of the educational attainment and earnings spectrum--were expected to provide more than half of the total job growth over the 2000-2010 period (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002). New skill and education requirements are also sources of change. Management trainee, private accounting, design engineering, and education or training categories now top the list of employment opportunities for new college graduates. …