The Labor market is undergoing a strong shift with the emergence of “New Collar Workers” – a new generation of workforce possessing specialised skills trained through structured, flexible short-term programs. This wave is gradually altering the structure and shaping the future of the labor market, bringing about numerous opportunities and challenges for both workers and businesses.

Who Are New Collar Workers?

  • If blue-collar employees traditionally encompass trade workers and white-collar workers are typically those with four-year degrees, then who are new collar workers?
  • According to Don Gannon-Jones, VP of Content at Karat, “What we’re realizing is that both of those terms overlook a significant segment of our population: intelligent, high-aptitude, and often skilled individuals who, for various reasons, chose not to pursue a degree — the new collar workers.”
  • Remarkably, some of the most successful figures in tech, like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Jack Dorsey, and Larry Ellison, were essentially new collar workers before the term even existed!
  • New collar jobs are burgeoning, particularly in healthcare, engineering, technology, and software, as highlighted by Monster.

Why the Rise in New Collar Workers?

  • The increase in new collar jobs and workers can be attributed partly to cost and partly to demand.
  • Many young adults are deterred by the escalating costs of college and potential student loan debt. Consequently, today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, two-thirds of the working population lack college degrees. Furthermore, trade school students, who obtain degrees and certifications in fewer years, are more likely to secure employment immediately after graduation, according to the National Center for Education.
  • Gannon-Jones emphasizes, “Students are increasingly hesitant to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that doesn’t necessarily guarantee financial security.”
  • Crucially, lacking a college degree doesn’t equate to being unqualified for roles that previously mandated that piece of paper.

Benefits of New Collar Jobs

  • One of the primary reasons for the surge in new collar jobs is that employers can now more easily train employees for specific roles, and employees without degrees can pursue relevant training for their desired fields.
  • Continuing education courses, online classes, certification programs, boot camps, and deliberate upskilling efforts are popular and relatively cost-effective avenues for gaining technological proficiency. New collar employees can thus enter the workforce equipped with the necessary skills.
  • For instance, Gannon-Jones shares, “I don’t have a degree. I started as a trade apprentice and learned about technology, tech education, assessment, and leadership through on-the-job experience, with the opportunity to learn and grow.”
  • Moreover, recruiting from the 60% of the population lacking a degree can enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization, fostering a workforce enriched with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

Finding and Hiring New Collar Workers

Now that the potential of new collar workers in your organization has piqued your interest, here are three tips to help you find, recruit, and hire them:

  • Revise job descriptions to eliminate degree requirements unless essential for certain fields like law, finance, or medicine. For example, while many software engineers have computer science degrees, candidates can acquire these skills through coding programs, making a degree unnecessary.
  • Clearly state that you seek specific job-relevant skills, considering these as the essential criteria for the role. Save “nice-to-haves” for the interview phase.
  • Assess candidates based on their skills and abilities during interviews, prioritizing actual capabilities over educational backgrounds or work histories. This approach will facilitate the identification of better-suited employees.

Supporting New Collar Workers

“If you’re expecting employees to invest their time in your organization, consider the investment you’re willing to make in them,” suggests Gannon-Jones.

Here are four strategies to foster success among new collar workers:

  • Provide ongoing learning opportunities that encompass communication, leadership, business decision-making, and feedback, thus enhancing employees’ value and loyalty.
  • Facilitate mentorship programs, especially in smaller organizations where formal training resources are limited. Mentors need not possess degrees; internal experts from diverse backgrounds can aid new employees in adapting to the workplace.
  • Expand new collar workers’ perspectives by exposing them to varied work experiences and operational insights.
  • Redefine performance appraisals to reflect evolving career trajectories. Allow for reasonable timelines for skill development and identify high-aptitude performers worthy of nurturing into future leadership roles.

Embracing new collar workers can revolutionize your organization’s approach to talent acquisition and development, fostering diversity, innovation, and enhanced productivity. So, don your cape and embark on this exciting journey!

Source: HRmorning


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