The Blue-Collar Drought

 

Many people believed that robots and machines would one day take over blue-collar jobs, however, it’s actually resulted in the exact opposite. Artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet have only created more jobs. Blue-collar Industries still need workers to make sure those robots are designed, built, maintained and run efficiently.

However, today’s candidate-driven job market is falling short on delivering the blue-collar workers that many industries need.  Unemployment continues to fall, as well as the number of workers entering the blue-collar sector. By 2028 its expected that there could be as many as 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs, which could result in an estimated $2.5 trillion negative economic impact on the US.

The amount of job openings in manufacturing is increasing each year, and the percentage of workers in manufacturing positions has fallen to less than 13 percent of the labor force. There are variety of causes to this shortage. Many people believe that the term “blue-collar worker” now has a negative connotation. People associate blue-collar jobs with difficult, dirty work, and it’s discouraging people from applying. The use of “skilled trades worker” or “technical careerist” is being recommended instead.

Another contributing factor to this issue is the increasing number of students getting four-year college degrees after high school. Enrollment rates continue to go up each year, reaching 20 million in 2015. This is likely due to parent’s perception of blue-collar jobs and the mind-set that college will lead to a better life. Yet many students leave college with substantial debt and enter the workforce with low-paying jobs. A college degree no longer guarantees a secure or well-paying job like it once did.

“Overseas, countries are promoting and capitalizing on skills training, while we [in the U.S.] started promoting college degrees. That’s what we put in front of our kids every day. That’s what they see on TV. Overseas they said, ‘Hey we’re going to gain on the U.S. by teaching manufacturing.”

Many people also don’t fully understand the benefits of a blue-collar job. There is a misconception that they’re low-paying jobs that require a low skill level. However, many of these jobs require less than a college degree but pay more than some professional “white-collar” positions.

The nationwide skills-gap is another obstacle that gets repeatedly discussed. Vocational education programs are disappearing in high schools, and many companies aren’t willing to invest in programs that can help develop skills in young-employees. Many manufacturing companies want and need employees with up to 5 years of past experience, but that’s increasingly rare to find.

However, even with all of this there are many positive initiatives being put into place across the county that are helping to promote these jobs. Many high schools are beginning to invest more heavily in STEM programs and trade-skills training. Companies are putting apprentice programs into place to help develop vocational skills internally. By opening up these apprenticeships to high school students they’re also exposing young adults to the manufacturing industry early and helping to prevents those stigmas from ever being formed.

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) is involved in apprenticeship and skilled-trade training programs to help build the future workforce. And in the summer of 2018 the President also signed an executive order designed to better align government training programs and retaining older workers without college degrees. All of these efforts together are working to close the skills-gap and eliminate misconceptions about blue-collar workers.

 The Council of Industry is also making efforts to combat the skills-gap right here in the Hudson Valley with their NYS Registered Apprentice Program. The program consists of both related instruction and on-the-job training. It typically takes about four years to complete the program, and there are currently 6 registered trades to choose from: Machinist (CNC), Electro-Mechanical Technician, Maintenance Mechanic, Quality Assurance Auditor, Toolmaker, and Industrial Manufacturing Technician. If you’re a manufacturing employer or a potential apprentice click here for more information, or contact Johnnieanne Hansen at jhansen@councilofindustry.org or (845) 565-1355 to discuss details, requirements and potential opportunities.

For more information read the full article here.  

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