What Is Skilled Labour? (Types And How To Develop Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As the job market is evolving with technological advancements, there is an increasing demand for skilled labourers. Employers prefer employees with specialised skill sets and expertise. Understanding the differences between skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour helps you decide and develop the right skills that can help you succeed in the job market. In this article, we define skilled labour, the popular jobs for skilled labourers, and share tips on building your skill sets.

What is skilled labour?

Skilled labour refers to employees with specialised training or skills in a particular industry or trade. They usually attend college, university or technical schools to obtain the skills needed for their profession. Alternatively, they can also acquire skills on the job. Most skilled labourers undergo additional training beyond their college degrees, and the specialised training helps them perform their job duties efficiently and safely. Since they have crucial job responsibilities, they generally earn more than unskilled labourers.

Generally, skilled labourers have these three types of skills:

  1. Foundational skills: These are the basic fundamental skills that help them carry out a job role. These skills support further advanced training, operational requirements and other speciality skills.

  2. Transferable skills: Transferable skills apply to all roles, and the labourers can adapt them to various positions, fields and environments. They usually include soft skills like negotiation, communication, problem-solving and hard skills like computer knowledge and numerical literacy.

  3. Technical and vocational skills: These refer to the practical skills that help skilled employees perform specific job-oriented tasks. They are also called job-specific skills.

Related: What Is A Labourer? A Complete Guide To Understanding The Role

Types of skilled labourers

Skilled labourers belong to two major categories. They are:

1. Semi-skilled labourers

Semi-skilled labour refers to a category of jobs that need specific training and abilities beforehand. Employees can efficiently perform these jobs with on-the-job training. Generally, semi-skilled jobs require the employee to perform repetitive tasks while upholding the quality and efficiency of the product or service. Semi-skilled employees may also carry out customer service related duties and require excellent communication skills, professionalism and empathy.

Examples of semi-skilled labourers include:

  • flight attendants

  • restaurant wait staff

  • bartenders

  • security guards

  • clerks

  • taxi drivers

  • truck drivers

  • retail salespersons

  • furniture movers

Related: What Is A Gig Worker? And How To Find A Job In The Gig Economy

2. Highly skilled labourers

A highly skilled employee is capable of working independently and supervises the duties of other employees. They can exercise independent judgement and dispense their duties efficiently on their own. They possess a comprehensive knowledge of the industry and their job role. Depending on their position, they are also called professionals.

Examples of highly skilled labourers include:

  • doctors

  • surgeons

  • dentists

  • nurses

  • electricians

  • carpenters

  • financial technicians

  • law enforcement officers

  • lawyers

  • judges

Related: Different High Income Skills

Benefits of skilled labourers

Skilled employees are an invaluable asset to any organisation. Here are some of the benefits of being a skilled labourer:

  • Safety: Skilled employees are experts in their trade and craft. They carry out their duties and responsibilities carefully and safely, without causing safety threats to themselves, other employees and physical assets.

  • Efficiency: Since skilled employees have specialising skills, they can carry out their job duties efficiently and independently and help an organisation improve its revenue by completing tasks on time.

  • Problem-solving: Skilled employees have the expertise and knowledge about their industry and trade, helping organisations overcome workplace challenges and hurdles efficiently.

  • Career opportunities: Skilled employees are in high demand and are likely to receive multiple job offers, accelerating their career growth.

Educational qualifications of skilled labourers

Skilled employees can build their skill-sets through different qualifications. Here are a few examples of the educational requirement for popular skilled labourer jobs:

  • On-the-job training: The employee acquires the necessary skills with practical training received as part of the role. Examples include fashion model, retail salesperson, truck driver, bartender, waiter and sanitation crew.

  • Apprenticeship: The employee works as an apprentice under a senior skilled labourer, acquiring the required skills for the role. Examples include electrician, carpenter, mason, auto mechanic, lineman, welder, plumber, AC mechanic, lawyer, chartered accountant and management consultant.

  • Vocational certification: Vocational training institutes award certificates to candidates who undergo the necessary training for a particular job. Examples include cosmetologists, chefs, dental assistants and paralegals.

  • Vocational degree: Also known as an associate degree, this is an undergraduate programme that equips students with the fundamental technical, academic and transferable skills for a specific job. Examples include medical laboratory technicians, healthcare assistants, licensed nurses, medical sonographers, web developers, opticians and graphics designers.

  • Undergraduate degree: The candidate undertakes a three or four-year undergraduate programme that equips them with the theoretical and practical knowledge required for their industry of preference. Examples include software engineers, teachers, journalists and accountants.

  • Postgraduate degree: Some jobs require skilled employers to have completed a postgraduate degree after the undergraduate programme in their chosen field. Examples include university and college professors, historians, mathematicians, scientists, astronauts and anaesthetists.

  • Professional degree: These are professional courses that equip candidates with highly specialised skill-sets for the role. Examples include general physicians, architects, investment bankers, pharmacists, dentists, surgeons, lawyers and engineers.

Related: 10 Best Jobs For College Students (A Complete Guide)

How to become a skilled labourer

When you apply for the job of a skilled labourer, the employer may require you to acquire new skills to be eligible for the role. Here are the best ways to develop new job-oriented skills or improve your existing skill-set:

1. Fix your career goals

Before you acquire new skills, it is a good idea to have specific career goals. Identify the industry and role that interests you and suits you in the long term. This helps you to focus on the right skills. Once you have identified the skills you want to develop, you can set SMART goals to help you achieve them. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based, helping you achieve your desired goals.

Related: How To Write SMART Goals (With Examples)

2. Seek the help of a mentor

Having a mentor helps you learn and develop new skills efficiently and quickly. Mentors are professionals in their industry, and they provide you with insights and advice on how to build the required skills. Look for mentors who offer constructive criticism and honest feedback to help you learn and achieve your career goals.

Related: 10 Reasons Why You Need A Mentor

3. Earn a professional degree

A professional degree can help you build your skills, and it also provides you with certification that can help improve your job opportunities. For example, if you want to develop your skills in coding, you can apply for an undergraduate or postgraduate course that specialises in coding. If you are currently working full time, you can consider an online course that helps you acquire new skills while balancing your job responsibilities.

4. Join a training course

While pursuing a professional degree can help you cultivate the desired skills, a training course takes more of an interactive approach, helping you master the skills. For example, a course in computer science enables you to acquire the theoretical concepts of the subject, while a coding training course gives you practical experience by helping you build programmes and applications. Besides the training course, you can also read relevant books, articles, blogs to further update and improve your skills.

5. Practise regularly

The key to gaining mastery in a skill is to practise it regularly. You can join an internship to help you gain more practical knowledge. Alternatively, you can work as a freelancer, doing small projects for clients, friends, family members and colleagues, allowing you to gain extensive knowledge of a particular skill by practising it regularly.

6. Become an apprentice

An apprenticeship is a training programme that can help you learn more about the skills needed to carry out the duties and responsibilities of a particular role. It can help you learn the nuances of the job from a professional who is working in the industry for several years. An apprenticeship programme can last for months or years, depending on the sector and skills. Once you complete the apprenticeship successfully, you usually receive certification or recognition that qualifies you to perform the role independently.

Related: How Do Apprenticeships Work?

7. Join a professional association

Joining a professional association helps you connect with professionals passionate about the industry. You can also discover skills that are in demand in the field. It also enables you to learn about available job opportunities in the sector, helping you build your career. You can join a local, national or international professional association online by paying a joining fee wherever applicable.

8. Ask for feedback

Getting regular feedback from your colleagues, managers and mentors on your project accomplishment skills can help you build and develop those skills. Use the constructive feedback and criticism of your teammates to improve your skills. For example, your manager may advise you to improve your presentation skills after a business presentation. Use that constructive feedback to improve your public speaking skills and improve your verbal communication skills.

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