We are all aware of the effects of the pandemic and the great resignation on today’s workforce. There have been record numbers of people leaving jobs voluntarily and significant skills shortages across industry sectors. One unexpected outcome for many executives is blue-collar workers shifting to white-collar jobs.
When you look at the pandemic, it shouldn’t be surprising that blue-collar workers would seek a change to their circumstances. According to a study by the Oliver Wyman Forum, “Despite being front and center during the spread of Covid-19, the well-being of blue-collar workers took a back seat. Most clocked hours in person -– putting themselves and their loved ones at risk –- while they watched their white-collar counterparts migrate to comfortable and safe remote setups, with their jobs and pay protected.”
The study found that 80% of blue-collar workers who sought out white-collar roles were successful in making the transition. Many have been looking at technology industry jobs that offer better benefits and more flexible hours. One study respondent said, “If they’d let me have some of the flexibility that we see our white-collar counterparts experiencing, I’d gladly stay.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 6.5% and 8.5% of blue-collar workers who made job changes in the construction, transportation, and production industries, moved to white-collar jobs. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that benefits are not applied equally between blue-collar and white-collar workers, with paid sick leave available to 59% of service workers, while 93% of management and professional roles have it.
Many companies who previously wouldn’t have been open to blue-collar applicants have relaxed their hiring criteria and begun to create training programs to get new hires without previous experience up to speed more quickly. According to Korn Ferry’s Jordan Waldron, “It’s driven by necessity to attract talent to show candidates a potential career path.”
The need to increase the number of employees with tech skills has been at a critical level for a few years now and shows no signs of slowing down. The move of blue-collar workers to white-collar roles is one way to help fill this void. For example, most maintenance and cleaning jobs, which employ more than four million people, are paid an average wage of $15 an hour, whereas entry-level tech support jobs pay twice that, and a career path to even higher wages.
This is not to say that these transitions are easy or simple for organizations to undertake, it takes a dedicated effort. Per Elise Freedman at Korn Ferry, “You can create technical workshops or fund higher-education degrees through partnerships that can give people the skills to develop into the roles they want and the firm needs.”
In addition to tech jobs, many companies are looking to fill middle management roles. Amazon has invested $700 million to upskill and re-skill up to one-third of its US workers in the next few years to fill openings in robotics, machine learning, computer science, healthcare, and more.
The trend of blue-collar workers shifting to white-collar jobs will likely continue until blue-collar jobs are able to offer similar wages and benefits as white-collar jobs. If you have questions about creating re-skilling and upskilling programs to fill your job openings, send us a note.