Quality Exclusives

Readers Respond: What is a Skilled Worker, Exactly?

June 20, 2012
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Quality LinkedIn Discussion Group members discuss the skills shortage in U.S. manufacturing, and debate just what a skilled worker entails.

Quality magazine LinkedIn Discussion Group members have their own take on the skills shortage in U.S. manufacturing. Recently, several members of the group debated what exactly a skilled worker entails.
Barry Lucas, president & CEO at FFD, Inc.: “Would you consider someone who assembles parts a skilled worker? Some folks seem to consider an assembler-or someone that I can easily instruct or train how to do a job--as an unskilled asset.”

Patty Remmell, technical writer at Kelly Engineering Resources: “I'm not an exec, but not everyone can do assembly. I'm also not sure how assemblers would fall into the unskilled category if that's the case. Are we perhaps lumping these "unskilled" workers into that category to justify low wages?”

Sathish Kumar Thantri, senior manager at SDCI and EHS in Bangalore: “ Every job requires a certain amount of skill. When we categorize [workers], it is really based on the amount of training we have to impart to acquire these "skills" differentiates,” he says. “Organization to organization, it varies. You decide on what is right to the organization and proceed. In some countries like India, these categories have different pay scales as per the government rules, if the organizations will be paying as per the minimum wages assigned. So the categorization should be carefully done.”

Sangram Jadhav, senior engineer of quality at Lear Corp: “Those who can describe the assembly but need more training to perform it are unskilled,” he says. “Those who can perform the assembly under some supervision and need some training are semi skilled. Third category is skilled, i.e., [when workers can] perform assembly without any supervision or independently. And the last category is highly skilled, i.e. [when workers can] perform the assembly independently without any supervision and any defects and can train others in the assembly process.”

Jeff Pfouts, CMM operator / CMM programmer at Kovatch Castings Inc.: “Creating a skilled workforce is a community responsibility,” he says. As a society we are responsible to teach our potential workers skills, demonstrate ethics, and encourage responsibility. As a society we are responsible to give those potential workers opportunities to enjoy a standard of living above poverty level through jobs. And in return, those potential workers are responsible to society to contribute by learning skills and applying them ethically and responsibly.

“There are so many definitions of skilled vs. unskilled and all kinds of shades of gray in between. I suspect that the more encompassing the definition of unskilled becomes the greater the perceived positive impact on the bottom line of those who sole focus in on making the greatest possible profit.”

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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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