Unskilled labor is still skilled labor

Ok, legit question time. What can we do to tackle the issues surrounding the terms skilled and unskilled labor in today’s world?

Back in the “old days” we had terms like skilled and unskilled labor to discuss labor that required training vs work that you could just basically show up and start doing with minimal explanation of what to do.

These days though, pretty much every job out there requires at the very least multiple days to weeks of training, even ones that don’t require trade school or college education (seriously, go try to do a job at McDonald’s with no training, you can’t)

The main focus that has been seen now with skilled/unskilled is that it’s often used as a way (OUTSIDE OF ACADEMIA) to label people as less worthy than those who have gone to college, which only helps to continue the stigma against poor or people who cannot qualify for certain grants/afford to take time off from work to go to college. It can also be seen in how we look at racial and ethnic divides in the workforce.

A white person in an “unskilled labor” position is just doing it to pay for college, or to get some extra funds, or it’s a “first time job” while a person of color is looked at like they’re just not trying hard enough if they’re in those positions. Or worse, it’s EXPECTED that they work in those positions, such as migrant workers or farm hands.

With jobs becoming more and more technical and requiring more and more skill to do properly (yes even burger flipping!) the terms just no longer work, and the push for people to leave “unskilled labor” positions because of their stigma is putting people into so much debt that they will most likely carry it the rest of their lives. It’s also putting absurd amounts of strain on those who are trying to go to college or a trade school, even to a community college.

We see students now working a full 8 hour shift, going to school for 15+ credits a term, and still being expected to get plenty of sleep AND do well at school and work. The burnout is high, and many students that I’ve spoken with and interacted with are frazzled or stressed because of trying to get done with college as quickly as possible so as to not go into debt, meaning they’re loading up on courses to the point of exhaustion, and then sometimes having to repeat courses because they couldn’t get a high enough grade due to being overwhelmed/exhausted.

In today’s world, there is no such thing as “unskilled labor” as literally all jobs require more than just a few hours of “here’s what you do, don’t fuck up.” People have to spend days or weeks training and being shadowed for even what we would consider to be the simplest of jobs, and unless you are coming into a position with extensive training already (meaning it’s not exactly unskilled is it?) you can’t just go to a day labor place and go work for a day outside of a highly limited and ever shrinking field of jobs (and even then, training is required though it’s often much shorter periods).

So, instead of using skilled/unskilled or blue collar/white collar/pink collar, what terms could we use to describe jobs today? What terms can we use that won’t add to the stigma that is already there and that won’t heighten the racist undertones seen today when these jobs are spoken about?

I realize that we need labels for things, especially in academia, for “proper categorization” but come on people, can we at least work towards accurate labeling and not something that was used back before WWI?

The Panama Canal: The African American Experience

Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics

Race, Ethnicity, and the American Labor Market: What’s at Work?

The Echoes of Slavery: Recognizing the Racist Origins of the Agricultural and Domestic Worker Exclusion from the National Labor Relations Act.

Blacks in STEM jobs are especially concerned about diversity and discrimination in the workplace

Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics

Racial discrimination in the U.S. labor market: Employment and wage differentials by skill

Racial Inequality in the Labor Market: Market Forces or Discrimination?

Discrimination in the Job Market in the United States

Unequal Opportunity: Race and Education

The Neglected College Race Gap: Racial Disparities Among College Completers

Low-income students face systemic barriers to college access

Why are low-income students not showing up to college, even though they have been accepted?

The real reasons many low-income students don’t go to college

For Poor Students, Getting into College Is Harder Than It Seems

Elite Colleges Constantly Tell Low-Income Students That They Do Not Belong

The subtle ways colleges discriminate against poor students, explained with a cartoon

5 Reasons the ‘Poor People Should Get an Education’ Myth Doesn’t Work At All

Here’s The Devastating Way Our College System Fails Poor Kids

Poverty Is Largely Invisible Among College Students

Queer|Pronouns he/they. Owner of Illuminatus Design. Degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies (GSWS, Psychology, English) & Theology (M:Div)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store