Skilled worker

Skilled worker

A skilled worker is any worker who has some special skill, knowledge, or (usually acquired) ability in his work. A skilled worker may have attended a college, university or technical school. Or, a skilled worker may have learned his skills on the job.


While most (if not "all") jobs require some level of skill, "skilled workers" bring some degree of expertise to the performance of a given job. For example, a factory worker who inspects new televisions for whether they turn on or off can fulfil this job with little or no knowledge of the inner workings of televisions. However, someone who "repairs" televisions would be considered a skilled worker, since such a person would possess the knowledge to be able to identify and correct problems with a television.

In addition to the general use of the term, various agencies or governments, both federal and local, may require skilled workers to meet additional specifications. Such definitions can affect matters such as immigration, licensure and eligibility for travel or residency. For example, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, skilled worker positions are not seasonal or temporary and require at least two years of experience or training.

Skilled work varies in type (i.e. - service versus labour), education requirements (ie - apprenticeship versus graduate college) and availability (freelance versus on-call). Such differences are often reflected in titling, opportunity, responsibility and (most significantly) salary.

Both skilled and non-skilled workers are vital and indispensable for the smooth-running of a free-market and/or capitalist society. According to Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, "...Enhancing elementary and secondary school sensitivity to market forces should help restore the balance between the demand for and the supply of skilled workers in the United States." [Alan Greenspan "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World", p. 405, The Penguin Press, 2007 ISBN 978-1-59420-131-8] Generally, however, "individual" skilled workers are more valued to a given company than "individual" non-skilled workers, as skilled workers tend to be more difficult to replace. As a result, skilled workers tend to demand more in the way of financial compensation because of their efforts. According to Greenspan, corporate managers are willing to bid up pay packages to acquire skilled workers as they identify the lack of skilled labor as one of today's greatest problems. ["ibid. p. 398]

In both skilled and non-skilled labor alike, the foundation is that a person is contributing, not that it is contributing with a special skill or talent. The relevance of a skill or talent is important to its value; as a skill becomes increasingly specialized the fit becomes increasingly more relatively important than the level of talent. Highly paid older workers who have acquired much skill through years of experience are known in both America and other countries such as Germany for taking up to a year using compensation and savings to find again the right fit for their high skills. Low skilled workers are known in America for taking the first opening, a job search only extended involuntarily when told repeatedly "there are no openings" or "business is down" (a.k.a."jobs Americans just won't take"). As highly skilled work becomes increasingly commodotized, economically speaking, "skilled work" becomes just "work." In the face of international competition, the amount of time a skilled worker will tend to spend searching may tend to increase at the very time his expected new position becomes less and less available. This was noticed by German politicians who came up with a proposal to alter the current scheme of government benefits, to disincentivise such workers from not settling for positions below their skill level.

Unskilled work is vital to an economy and less vital per capita to an employer. This is an Economics issue. How to rectify this to further optimise the functioning of an economy? Senator Teddy Kennedy has proposed changes to Social Security to "honor" this hitherto unrecognized portion of national value produced by the lowest paid Americans. On Minnesota Radio, there was recently a discussion about the question of a national salary supplement in South Africa for the lowest paid workers. All such proposals recognise the vital function of unskilled labor. Skilled labor must face ever higher competition from itself; correct allocation of skilled labor becomes an ever greater issue; the hitherto unrecognized value of unskilled labor is beginning to be recognized by governments; human and machine capital makes greater production, as David Ricardo long ago pointed out, increasing the value of basic human labor as its cost of production, cost of living, decreases. Ever harder to master science, ever more skilled or at least quantitative competition or demanding task masters, these put ever more people out of work or make their work ever harder or their employers ever more aloof and harsh; as this happens, the relevance of machinery, of science and of skilled workers decreases. The relevancy of skilled workers decreases to whom? To those put out of work. Reflecting on all these factors, what can be the future of skilled work?

American educator Mortimer J. Adler, former editor of Encyclopedia Britannica Great Books of the Western World in writing about the skill of reading e. g. one possessed by a Reader's Digest editor in particular and referring to any skill in general declares, "... Every action takes place in a particular situation, always in the here and now and under a particular set of circumstances. You cannot act in general. The kind of practical judgment that immediately precedes action must be highly particular. It can be expressed in words, but seldom is. It is almost never found in books, because the author of a practical book cannot envisage the concrete practical situations in which his readers may have to act. Try as he will to be helpful, he cannot give them concrete practical advice. Only another person in exactly the same situation could do that." Then he goes on to explain that practical books can be helpful by stating general rules that apply to different situations. [Mortimer J. Adler "How to Read a Book", p. 193, Simon & Schuster, 1972 SBN 671-21280-X; 1st ed. 1940 ]


Education can be received in a variety of manners, and is acknowledged through various means. Below is a sampling of educational conventions. (According to Greenspan, math skill more than anything else is required to achieve skilled-job status and is the one skill too many high school grads lack ). ["The Age of Turbulance", ibid. p. 404]

*On-the-job training - (Examples: fashion model, telecommunicator, entertainer)
*Apprenticeship - (Examples: welder, mechanic, farmer, mason)
*Vocational certification - (Examples: cosmetologist, dental assistant, licensed nurse practitioner, chef)
*Associate Degree - (Examples: legal assistant, commercial artist)
*Undergraduate Degree - (Examples: school teacher, software developer, nurse, coach)
*Professional Degree - (Examples: Architect, lawyer, medical doctor, psychiatrist)
*Graduate Degree - (Examples: Astronaut, international businessperson, professor)
*Other - Education can be received in other manners other than, and sometimes in conjunction with, what is mentioned above. For example, summer or post-graduate internships are very common for persons with advanced education but little experience. Also, many fields, including medicine, may require re-certification for various procedures or the profession in general. - (Examples: Post-doctorate fellow, medical resident, software intern)(General Motors university system with sixteen functional colleges and McDonald Hamburger University). ["The Age of Turbulence", ibid. p. 402]


In American industry, there has been a change in the concentration of skilled workers from the areas of past economic might e. g. steel, automobile, textile and chemicals to the more recent (21st century) industry developments e. g. computers, telecommunications and information technology which is commonly stated to represent a plus rather than a minus for the American standard of living. ["The Age of Turbulance", ibid. p. 395]


Due to globalisation, regional shortages of skilled workers, migration, outsourcing, and other factors, the methods of procuring skilled workers has changed in recent years.



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