What is the difference between an Assistant and a Skilled Worker?

AssistantSchermafdruk_2019-08-13_13.26.47.pngAn employee in the role of Assistant enjoys repetitive work. Doing the same thing every day has its advantages: you can work steadily, you know precisely what is expected of you and you can usually do it without much thought. It isn’t difficult. People usually learn what they have to do in no time and start working independently.

There are, of course, minimum requirements for an Assistant. You have to be disciplined and be able to work accurately. You also have to be able to keep things tidy, to clean up after yourself and not leave things unfinished.


Master Assistant
A step higher demands slightly more. Two things are particularly important. Firstly, that the employee knows how to do the more complicated production work, where precision and skill are required. Secondly, some training is necessary so that the employee knows how to apply the more subtle tricks of the trade.

Work at the level of Master Assistant can’t be done by everyone. Care and precision are demanded. In other words, employees at this level demonstrate a certain sense of responsibility, because a certain level of risk (what can go wrong if you make a mistake) is involved. Precision is also required, because the employee has to be able see when something is wrong and draw attention to it, or take action themselves if that is what is expected.

The second thing that we expect at this level is that employees take action or work harder if they see that it is necessary. They are pro-active. They want to be an example for others: this is how employees at this level can make a difference.


Skilled WorkerSchermafdruk_2019-08-13_13.26.47.pngThe role of Skilled Worker is characterised by craftsmanship. Employees at this level are qualified masters of a trade where expertise and training are required. They can apply their knowledge to the particular circumstances that arise at a given moment. A painter, for example, will take account of the weather; a bus driver, how long his/her round has to take; and a home help, what the client needs.

Skilled Workers can’t just be substituted by any other colleague; you can see by the result who was responsible for it. That is characteristic of the professionalism of Skilled Workers: their mastery of their trade. One Skilled Worker might be more meticulous and careful than the other; another might show more of a sense of responsibility. Skilled Workers can also work in different places, because they know how to do several different tasks well. They can be relied on to do things like checks and some administration.

However good their workmanship is, however, Skilled Workers have their limitations. They don’t like to have to improvise, for example. They prefer to work to a precise set of rules and instructions, so that they know exactly what is expected from them.

Master Skilled Worker
This is not true of the Master Skilled Worker. They can improvise where necessary (‘I’ll work something out’), are flexible (‘If today isn’t a good day, then I’ll come tomorrow’), can assess difficult situations (‘That’s not going to work, we’re going to have to do something else’) and are communicative (‘I understand that you are dissatisfied and I'm going to help you’).

The Master Skilled Worker can empathise with people, sets priorities and demonstrates flexibility in unexpected situations. They maintain their overview. The Master Skilled Worker is able to prioritise important matters (‘First things first’) and to organise things, like a foreperson leads a team.