Employment vs. Employability

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From the 1950's to the late 1980's, the concept of lifetime employment was considered one's ideal career path, where seniority determined career success.

Beginning in the 1990's to the present, technological advances have sped up market cycles, where companies started to go out of business, reorganize, and re-emerge as new companies to meet new demands in a shorter period of time. In response, the labor market had to become more flexible, providing their talents where they were needed. Workers were thus rewarded based on performance rather than seniority.

The ability to develop proficiency in transferable workplace skills has replaced seniority as a measure of employability. They are necessary for career success at all levels of employment.

Employment during 1950's-1980's

Lifetime job security

Jobs are permanent

Work environment static

Well-defined boundaries

Company manages career

Low emphasis on skill development

Employability in the 1990's through the 21st Century

Limited job security

Jobs are temporary

Work environment dynamic


Self-directed career management

High emphasis on skill development

* A boundaryless career operates across organizational and industry boundaries, not just within one company.

21st Century Employability

Employability refers to possessing a set of core skill groups that are transferable from job-to-job and from industry-to-industry. To address what these skills are, the U.S. Department of Labor established a Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) in 1990.

In their 1991 report, What Work Requires of Schools, the commission's primary objective is to help teachers understand how curriculum and instruction must change to enable students to develop the specific foundation skills and competencies necessary for employment.

In their 1999 report, Skills and Tasks for Jobs: A SCANS Report for America 2000, the commission's primary objective is to expand on proposing acceptable levels of these core foundation skills and competencies. You can access full text versions of these reports from the Resources section for this course.

SCANS Foundation Skills and Competencies

SCANS determined that workplace skills from job-to-job and industry-to-industry consist of a core group of foundation skills and competencies.

Foundation skills are basic academic and behavioral characteristics from which to build competencies. The three SCANS foundation skill categories were identified as Basic Literacy Skills, Thinking Skills, and Personal Qualities.

Competencies are a combination of skills, abilities, and knowledge needed to accomplish a specific task; they are more closely related to what people actually do at work. The five SCANS competencies were identified as Resources, Information, Interpersonal, Systems, and Technology.

SCANS foundation skills and competencies are being integrated into industry skill standards, educational learning standards, and hiring/evaluation procedures throughout the U.S.

What is missing is the integration of these skills and competencies into the job search, resume writing, and career development processes. A lot of what you read and do on this site will focus on how you focus on your core skills; this is the foundation for achieving resiliency in your career.

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