Resurgence of Blue Collar Jobs: Do Impressionable Students Know About Them and Paths To Get Them?

There was significant loss of ‘blue collar’ jobs when we moved from a manufacturing to a service economy. This fundamental change in our workforce requires a broader definition of ‘blue collar’ or ‘middle skill’ work; my interpretation (by no means universally agreed upon) is: any work that does not require a bachelor’s degree. This still captures the essence of traditional blue collar work: hands-on, mechanical, and applied skill.

According to a USA News article, over the next couple of years, there will be a resurgence of ‘the new blue collar’ with over 2.5 million good-paying jobs being added to the economy (representing nearly 40% of all job growth). Perhaps the biggest hurdle in filling them is generating awareness these jobs even exist.

There is often an unwarranted stigma associated with ‘blue collar’ work; it has become a class distinction. The public does not rally behind building an infrastructure to best reach this segment of the workforce; particularly a communication network of 6 – 12 educators, employers, institutions offering the training, and workforce development and planning organizations.

Concentrating on skills makes sense. Certification programs are effective.


But many skilled trade workers (plumbers, electricians, and repairmen), STEM middle skill workers (web designers, computer technicians, and computer support specialists), and other blue collar workers can: make over $100,000 a year, demonstrate high skill competencies, and have a secure career.

Impressionable high school students need to know these middle jobs exist, their value, what skills they require and available training and education programs. Then they must make a mature, important career decision: invest in four-year bachelor’s degree or consider one of these programs.

Of course, there is the lopsided cost and expense of a bachelor’s degree; with some of these programs, the student earns income during the program to offset its cost. Though, across all careers, it is well established that professionals with a bachelor’s degree earn more over their lifetime than those without one.

I think the decision should be a personal, case-by-case decision. The three factors I would consider: ROI on the education or training, career fulfillment, and career security. I would ask myself:

“Will I make enough of a return to satisfy my financial needs? Do I derive self-efficacy doing this type of work for the next five to ten years? Do I have guaranteed employability?”

Some of the available training and education programs include:

  • Bootcamp programs. Students acquire employability skills in less than 3 months.
  • Apprenticeships. An apprentice gets immediate exposure to applied learning and receives compensation.
  • Certification / License. Learn what is required in an efficient and effective way, gain a credential to verify skill competencies.
  • Micro-credential paths. Like a certification program, learning is precise. (For example, an accountant can finish coursework and take the CPA in less than a year.)

Skills Based Approach is an ideal platform to apply these programs. The application effectively allows workers to plan, track, and acquire skills as they navigate through program requirements. It is also evolving, so users adapt to external (changing demand for skills) and internal (success, progress, or failure in acquiring skills) factors. Focusing on acquiring skills (as opposed to chasing a degree or talent) also coincides with a Skills Culture

Here is a basic example of Skills-Based Approach tasking and the path to become an electrician.

Path of tasks to become an electrician


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