90 or so odd years ago, the terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ were coined. Each called attention to a subset of employees. The former referred to “manual workers wearing blue denim or chambray shirts as part of their uniforms” and the latter to salaried staff performing “clerical, administrative and managerial functions.”
A New Generation, A New Worker, A New Collar!
Fast forward to 2016 and a new expression is minted – the ‘New Collar’ worker. Created by Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM Corp., the occupation refers to roles that focus on the skill of a candidate instead of the level of education. Unlike conventional positions that mandate the need of a 4-year college degree, new collar jobs entail either vocational training or 2 years of post-secondary certification.
The necessity for the category arose with large-scale digitalization and the birth of a new generation that embraced it. As a consequence, the worker of the present era requires advanced and relevant skills – expertise that keeps evolving with time which, in turn, requisites corresponding training and retraining. To fulfill these job roles a new direction has to be adopted. A path that allows workers to gain know-how in much lesser time than that taken by traditional education.
Though the number of disciplines that are creating new collar jobs, there are three sectors where they commonly occur – Information Technology, Manufacturing, and Healthcare. And the necessary training new collar jobs demand is generally catered by:
- Vocational schools & programs
- Technical high-schools
- Community colleges
- Some companies
For instance, IBM’s P-TECH is the ideal case of companies training workers for new collar jobs in the IT industry. A postsecondary diploma, Pathways in Technology Early College High School, is a 4+2-year program. The curricula P-TECH follows is an amalgamation of project-based activities, mentoring, internship and collaboration that injects the individual with practical skills.
Microsoft’s answer to the talent gap that sowed the seeds of new collar professions is the Skillful initiative, created in partnership with the Markle Foundation the program promotes skill-oriented job training.
The What – Neither Blue Nor White…
New collar workers are slightly apart. They are neither completely white collared nor entirely blue collared. Pithily put, they lie somewhere in the median. If blue collared employees are designated as people who work with their hands and white collared as those who work with their heads, then new collar worker would be individuals who work with their skills.
The new workforce combines the positives of each grouping. They necessitate more training than blue collars, but less extensive than white collars. New collar roles recompense better, demand more intellect and are safer when compared with blue collar.
Unlike white collar jobs that use technology, new collar trades function in tandem with it. They are the individuals who create, program and monitor automated tools which now perform the laborious, tedious and dangerous tasks formerly done by assembly line workers.
A quintessential example of a new collar job is Delta’s AMT. The present curriculum followed for Aircraft Maintenance Training, as presided by the Federal Aviation Administration, is basic. It takes two years to complete after which another year has to be spent in learning the exact requirements of the carrier where the person is employed.
In contrast, Delta’s program teaches the student the precise skills an AMT needs for their aircraft. It not only shortens the educative duration by 365 days but creates highly skilled workers.
The Who – Essentiality Of Few Industries…
Projected numbers state that in the next 3 years there will be over 210,000 positions left vacant in just the field of technology. This severity of staffing issues is one factor that leads to the genesis of new collar workers.
Another is the rapid innovation in machines which demands people who are trained in maintaining, updating and supply parts of it. Soon, for some industries, new collar workers will become the essentiality.
A few IT segments that require these technically skilled employees are cloud computing; security analysis and testing; data sciences such as mining and statistical analysis, storage engineering and management; coding and user interface designing.
In the field of manufacturing, the swapping of low-skill blue collar workers with heavy, automated machinery and robots has caused the emergence of new collar roles. The current scenario demands professionals who know their craft well and are expert machinists. A mirror effect is happening in healthcare too where pharmacists and technicians need to be trained at a fast pace and dexterously.
The How – An Alternate Education…
A new world of opportunities inevitably steers the growth of alternate academic approaches. To equip the upcoming lot of workers, with the skills needed for the future, two elements need to be factored:
- The new collar worker doesn’t need to operate equipment on a daily basis, but s/he might require to troubleshoot it.
- The need for trained staff is urgent.
The implication being it is critical to do away with old-school methodologies and seize innovative procedures to tutoring.
Employers and institutes must reinvent training and build project-based programs. The need of the hour is a hands-on experience, an approach that doesn’t emphasize overall achievement but how a person defines and resolves issues. Education has to be aligned to concrete job requirements, mimic real-life circumstances, endorse critical thinking and explain the iterative steps taken towards success.
The culminating step to training new collar workers is customization of learning at a regional and local level, so as the employee is armed with the tools that work best for the area’s need.
A New Necessity, A New Group, A New Revolution…
A factory floor job. An operator. A generic technician. These blue collar jobs are remnants of an epoch gone-by. A CNC machine operator. A laser welder. A data miner. These are the new necessities.
The 21st Century fashioned digital factories, industries that are a far cry from the old era. They call for marginally more skilled employees — expertise gained with a short two-year course in science or engineering. They require the pioneering generation of new collar jobs.
Presently, there is a wealth of cool digital professions which create engaging career curves. The only condition to progress is the fitness of companies to think differently when selecting and retraining these digital natives.