ERIC Number: ED358325
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1993
Button Pushers and Ribbon Cutters: Observations on Skill and Practice in a Hospital Laboratory and Their Implications for the Shortage of Skilled Technicians. EQW Working Papers.
Employers and policymakers have traditionally sought to manage skill shortages in technical and other occupations through initiatives predicted in one of two broad definitions of skill: skill-as-input and skill-as-artifact. A weakness of both these perspectives is that focusing on the inputs and outcomes of a labor process obscures or ignores the process itself. These two perspectives could be complemented by considerations of skill-in-practice. Recent attempts to address the growing demand for medical technicians and technologists illustrate how a practice-oriented approach to skill might shed light on the nature of skill shortages and lead to more effective policy. In response to skill shortages in medical technology, Congress has proposed two bills: the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) calling for increased technical education, and the Rural Clinical Laboratory Personnel Shortage Act, which would relax some of the stringencies of CLIA. Medical technicians and technologists endorse the bill designed to downgrade skill requirements; physicians favor the bill aimed at enhancing skill requirements. The technicians' endorsement may reflect their conviction that the bill is more congruent with the work they actually perform. An ethnographic study investigated technicians' definitions of skill-in-practice and the implications for resolving skill shortages in technical occupations. At the hospital observed, the technicians' notions of skill were based not on education or job design but on specific work practices: ability to troubleshoot machines, demonstration of improvisational techniques, and social pooling of knowledge and experience to interpret ambiguous results. (Contains 52 references.) (YLB)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce, Philadelphia, PA.