Preparing Students for the ‘New Collar’ Workforce

In the past, jobs in the United States were typically labeled as either white collar or blue collar. White collar employees referred to salaried professional workers whose work is knowledge-based and non-routine, does not involve manual labor, and does not require the wearing of a uniform or protective clothes. Blue collar employees referred to wage-earning personnel whose work involves physical labor and requires some form of specialized clothing on the job.

But a new label has entered the job market, coined by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, called “new collar” and it’s the area of growth and opportunity for our youth. New collar jobs require some specialized education (typically in a technical field), but not a four-year college degree. These jobs have very relevant and technical skill requirements that colleges are not teaching students.

New collar jobs are on the rise, but the workforce cannot meet the demand. The chief economic adviser for ZipRecruiter, a job search website, Cathy Barrera, said that just since January, there has been a 45% increase in the number of new collar jobs posted on the site each month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of the end of June, there were a record 6.2 million job openings, but many of these openings are new collar jobs that remain unfilled as a result of an under-skilled workforce.

Companies say that the nature of work is evolving, but education has not evolved with it. Every industry from manufacturing to agriculture is being reshaped by data science, and, as a result, many jobs are being created that demand new skills. Companies are now looking for innovative ways to address the under-skilled workforce, and it opens up opportunities for the current generation of teens. Here are two examples:

IBM. The computer giant recently rolled out their new P-Tech program, an IBM-sponsored six-year high school and associate’s degree that started in Brooklyn, but is now currently available in several U.S. cities. These students learn exactly the relevant skills needed for high-demand jobs, and most are hired by IBM before they even graduate.

Delta. The airline has partnered with schools and invested in job training programs of their own to give thousands of students the technical knowledge needed to be an aviation maintenance technician (AMT). Far from traditional airplane mechanics, AMTs use tablets and computers to troubleshoot these incredibly powerful machines. Salaries start at about $50,000 a year and climb to over $100,000 per year in a few years.

Final Thoughts…

College may not be the best option for every teen. And, at the current time, many college graduates remain unemployed after school, while companies still search for technical-skilled workers. Don’t fail to inform your teen about “new collar” jobs and gauge their interest.

If you would like more information on teen employment issues, please read our previous blog Preparing Teens for the Workforce.

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