Train unskilled workers for higher-pay positions

The term “unskilled worker” has come to be used as a long-term status descriptor.  A person is “unskilled.”  A job position needs “unskilled” labor.  People in poverty are “unskilled.”  Uses of the term imply that this status is permanent and not subject to change.

It seems that this label is a consequence of a labor market that has become focused more on labels than on the person.  This issue was raised in an editorial by Teresa Keegan in the Denver Post.  http://www.denverpost.com/2016/09/01/job-readiness-and-knowledge-dont-just-come-from-college/  A growing problem is the tendency of human-resource departments to hire a label instead of a person.  The capabilities and potential of the person are ignored in favor of a degree from a college that may have little or nothing to do with the job position and the person’s ability to perform it.

As an entrepreneur often engaged in new opportunities, I joke that any time a person invents a new product or service, that they have become the world’s greatest expert on the topic of their invention.  At the same time, they are “unskilled.”  The challenge for the entrepreneur is to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible to realize the opportunity.  Yet, entrepreneurs are not described as “unskilled.”  Expectations are different.  Life-long learning is a given.

So why is a person hired for a job anticipated to be all they can be at the time that they are hired?  And, why does this appear to be particularly true for jobs requiring “unskilled labor”?  Do these jobs have no opportunity for growth in terms of skills?

Every job I ever had was an opportunity to learn and increase my portfolio of skills.  I now represent the aggregation of decades of learning.  I am a unique combination of skills, most of which were not learned in a classroom or through any formal education program.

There are many job-training and on-the-job training programs out there.  In these situations, it is expected that an individual will expand their capabilities and increase their personal performance.

So, if there are jobs out there that truly require “unskilled”, are these real jobs?  This question may be raised within the debate over increasing the “minimum wage.” http://www.denverpost.com/2016/07/21/minimum-wage-hike-colorado/  Is an unskilled labor job a form of welfare?  Is it something to keep people busy and engaged, regardless of the value to the employer?

Or, is human labor the only solution to performing certain tasks needed to bring certain products and services to market?  Many businesses have taken the position that they cannot exist without unskilled labor.  Is this a fact, or an excuse to avoid the cost of automation?

Is hiring someone in an “unskilled-labor” position simply kicking the can down the road in terms of addressing the ability of an individual to support themselves and their family?  If a minimum wage is not a “living wage,” it would seem that continuing to employ someone in a minimum-wage job is perpetuating the problems of the individual and any burden that person poses to the other people in the community.

Should “unskilled-labor” jobs be encouraged in order to provide income to people without skills?  Or, should unskilled labor jobs be coupled with training programs to move these individuals into a better and higher-paying job position.  Would it be better to offer jobs at lower pay rates that are matched with training programs than to increase a minimum wage that is still a path to nowhere?

Contact Karl Dakin of Dakin Capital Services LLC at 720-296-0372 or kdakin@dakincapital.com.