Defining Skill: The Many Forms of Skilled Immigrant Labor

Nov 17, 2016 | by
  • Description

In the world of work, skills encompass more than just education. Expertise and abilities gained on the job, informally, or through specialized training programs can be adapted and used in a number of different settings. Yet, because skills are so often narrowly equated with level of education, the value of the work performed by low-wage workers (native-born and immigrant alike) is frequently devalued or overlooked entirely. From construction workers to gardeners, many low-wage immigrant workers are in fact quite skilled, but are frequently labeled as "less skilled" because their levels of formal educational attainment are relatively low or because the jobs they perform require little formal education. The purpose of this paper is to describe how certain immigrant workers acquire a wide range of skills and apply those skills in the United States. Using data from a large survey of workers, it is intended to broaden our concept of "skills" and begin to change the language we use to describe these workers.