The Honor and Value of all Work


Carlotta Daniels-Randolph | 8/6/2013, 6 a.m.

Throughout the day I encounter people doing all manner of work--every job type from the farm laborer working the land of the farms surrounding our area; the construction workers building the houses nearby; the administrative and clerical support people where I work and the grocery clerk at the local market. They all are performing duties vital to the good of the community, region and nation. I often wonder how life would be if our society did not have individuals doing the jobs that we sometimes take for granted. Not many folks would dispute the value of the degreed professionals of our society,--doctors, lawyers, scientist, teachers, and others. However, there is a tendency to downplay the value of work that requires less education. Let’s face it. Classism continues to be one of the unfortunate realities of our time. And like the other isms that plague and hurt society classism hurts our local and national economy.

How so? There are countless jobs that go unfilled in the tri-state area because they require skilled laborers. Many talented, hardworking individuals are performing these jobs and earning a good living, but there are not nearly enough to fill the need. Why? There are apprenticeship programs and community colleges to train individuals to perform these jobs in a variety of areas including skilled manufacturing, power plant technology, automotive services, building trades, and more. The fact that these types of jobs pay well and can be stepping stones to more education if so desired has been covered in this column.

The challenge for society to overcome is the “not my child syndrome”, which is no small feat. The dreams and aspirations of parents for their children tend to be that they will attain at least the educational and career success of the parents. And, if the parent had unattained educational aspirations they tend to want their children to do what they did not. Evidence of this widely studied phenomenon and can be seen when middle and high school students participate in career day activities where they indicate their career goals. Not many will admit to a desire to pursue what are considered “blue collar” careers. How many even know about these types of career opportunities and the path to success they may provide? Do they realize that many of these job opportunities require post-secondary education and training that they can build on and acquire over time and avoid debt associated with higher education? Are they even encouraged to explore these career paths? Where are the school counselors in this regard? Is there undue pressure on them to maintain or build the desirability of the school district and property values by highlight that 90%+ of the high school graduate go on to a four –year college or university? Many young people from these schools can choose a different path and still be successful, but too often these options are not considered.

All workers no matter who they are or what they do should feel that what they do for a living has value because it does. Whether you work in the public or private sector, in a low wage, low skill job or are a professional career, and everything in between, your work can make life for others more convenient, simpler, more enjoyable, healthier or safer. The only question should be are you able to support yourself or at least contribute to your support --that’s what matters.

When all work is not valued then many jobs can go unfilled, then companies have few options and tend to hire from outside the region, or the nation or move off-shore if they can. We want to keep a variety of career and job opportunities here and it would help if we truly honored and respected all honest work. This would go a long way to erase the stigma associated with types of work. Hopefully that will help job seekers feel good about the many options available to them and make broader choices.

Carlotta Daniels-Randolph, M.Ed. is a workforce development professional with 20 years’ experience in the public and private sector and an administrator and adjunct instructor at Delaware County Community College.