Is It Easier Than Ever To Become Blue-Collar?

The answer is simple – yes!  The perfect storm of high demand and low supply is fueling one of the hottest markets for workers in a few decades. And with 70% of the jobs that were lost in the Spring of 2020 being recovered, things are starting to look a lot brighter for the United States.

Even so, the U.S. is facing its largest worker shortage in the last 50 years. The National Federation of Independent Business reports that 46% of small business owners have openings that they cannot fill, and 89% of small businesses are looking to hire applicants with little experience. These changes mean that now might be the best time ever to become blue-collar.

We’ve already covered how the hiring gap is raising blue-collar wages, so now let’s take a look at what the state and federal governments, as well as employers, are doing to help you find work.

States Are Expanding Apprenticeship Programs

Many states are looking to expand on their apprenticeship programs. Established in the late 1930s by The Fitzgerald Act, Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAP) are models that are validated by the U.S. Department of Labor or a State Apprenticeship Agency. Anyone who graduates from a RAP receives an industry-recognized credential that is portable to anywhere in the country.

Apprenticeships include on-the-job training and are not limited to construction. There are over 1,200 occupations across many industries that use RAP models, including healthcare and information technology. And in many internships, workers can start earning paychecks throughout their training, making it a high-value alternative to the university model.

“Imagine educators and higher education administrators are driving the bus — they pull up to the bus stop, the employer’s waiting, the kids get off the bus, away they go, and hopefully they’re going to be successful. In apprenticeship, the employer is driving the bus, taking the students where they need to go and changing direction along the way if necessary.”

– Jody Robbins, President of the national Association of State and Territorial Apprenticeship Directors (NASTAD)

Government Initiatives Lowering Barrier of Entry

A new government initiative looks to lower the barrier for entry for new workers and make it easier for workers to change jobs or start their own companies. The new programs seek to restrict non-compete agreements, which limit a person from finding work with a competing company or starting their own. They also seek to cut out “unnecessary” occupational licensing, which can make it difficult and more costly to start out in certain fields.

How Blue-Collar Workers Can Win in this Environment

Employers competing for a dwindling supply of workers are getting creative.  Never before have employers focused on their own company cultures as a way to not only attract new workers but retain them long term.

The higher demand for blue-collar workers has made some employers turn to other incentives to entice applicants. These incentives include things like signing bonuses for higher-earning positions and increased wages, performance rewards and gift cards for lower-earning jobs.

“It’s a workers’ labor market right now and increasingly so for blue-collar workers.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that weekly wages in the leisure and hospitality industry were up 10.4% in May 2021 compared to February 2020, outpacing the private sector overall.

The data also showed that pay for people with only high school diplomas are rising faster than those with college degrees. Which only makes sense when you over-supply the market with nominally valuable 4-year degrees,  while severely under-supplying it with workers who are willing to work with their hands.

“It’s a workers’ labor market right now and increasingly so for blue-collar workers.”

Becky Frankiewicz, President of Manpower Group Inc. North America

And things aren’t going to change anytime soon.  As I said before, this perfect storm has created one of the best, most financially rewarding environments for blue-collar workers in more than a generation, and it won’t be leaving us at any time in the distant future.

Further Reading:

5 Top Blue-Collar Skills You Can Teach Yourself

Trade Jobs That Pay 6 Figures

The 7 Highest Paying Trade Jobs That Are in Demand Now