Building foundation skills

Skills are behaviors that a person can learn and improve through practice. Every day, students are learning and practicing skills as they also increase their knowledge in the subjects they study.

Skills can be categorized by how they are used and by whom. Some skills are very specific to a particular activity, job, or industry. Others are needed by all workers, regardless of job, work setting, or industry. These latter skills are often called employability skills. Young people need to be developing these employability skills, and you as a parent can help.

In 1992, the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) produced a national report that identified the skills employers need in today's workplace. These Competencies and Foundation skills are useful in thinking about how school and other activities help your child prepare for the future. You will see that the 3-R's (Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic) are but one part of the picture.

Effective workers can productively use:

The Foundation
Competence requires:

In Oregon, the Employment Department also surveys employers throughout the state. Employers report that work ethic and other soft skills remain in short supply. According to its 2002 Employer Survey, employers in Oregon are looking for these skills:

Percent of Employers
99% Work Ethic Employers want honest, dependable, and productive workers
96% English Language Most jobs require oral and written communication in English.
95% Reading and Writing Most jobs require workers to read and write.
94% Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Employers want workers who can understand and find answers to problems.
94% Interpersonal Businesses - and their employees - thrive when people work well together.
90% Math Nearly every job requires some math skills.
68% Computer Software Employers need technology-savvy workers.
68% Leadership Employers need skilled staff to guide lower-level workers.
58% Manual Labor Technology will never completely replace the need for hands-on work.
44% Tools and Machine

Many employers need workers who can operate certain equipment.

40% Spanish Language Employers' need for Spanish-speaking workers has risen with the Hispanic population.

As you can see, in addition to the communication and math skills we typically associate with school, young people need to be learning and practicing a number of other skills. Everyday activities provide opportunities to learn about these skills, think about how we use them, and work on improving them. You may also want to do these activities with your children:

Helping Hands (Elementary School or Younger)
Things Employers Expect (Middle School)
Skills at Work and School (Middle School)
Employability Skills and Me (High School)

For more information on SCANS, go to