All Connecticut employers are reporting challenges in finding employees to fill open positions. This fact is particularly true for so-called blue collar workers.
Just what is a blue collar worker?
A blue-collar worker typically performs skilled or unskilled labor requiring an associate degree or less education. These workers are normally paid an hourly rate, or in some cases by “piece rate” based on the amount of work completed.
And demand for their services is rising.
In fact, according to a recent report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, between 2019 and 2028 the U.S. as a whole will develop a shortage of these workers approaching 2.4 million people.
The negative impact of this shortfall on the U.S. economy? That’s estimated to be close to 2.5 trillion dollars.
According to the report: “The manufacturing industry is experiencing exciting and exponential change, as technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and [the] Internet … are rapidly changing the workplace… While some predicted that these new technologies would eliminate jobs, we have found the reverse—more jobs are actually being created.”
So what’s going on? Why are these workers becoming so scarce?
It appears there may be several factors at work…
- First, federal restrictions on immigration levels are beginning to shrink the pool of available workers.
- The stigma associated with the words “blue-collar worker” is leading some young people to avoid jobs in manufacturing and other industries reliant upon such workers.
- Consistent with the last point, an increasing number of high school graduates in the U.S. are seeking a four-year college degree. Enrollment in institutions of higher education increased by 14% between 2005 and 2015.
According to HR and employee compensation experts, young workers often underestimate the incomes they can earn in blue-collar jobs – saying those jobs can sometimes pay as much as 50% more than jobs requiring a college degree.
How can states like Connecticut encourage young workers to consider blue-collar employment?
Most agree it’s going to take investment by the state in quality technical education, an effort by state educators to expose young people to the income and career opportunities these jobs provide, and a commitment by employers to make sure wages adequately rise over time.
In the end, Americans need to shed the idea that blue collar jobs are a dead-end street and remember that even in industries where robotics are becoming more important, those companies still need workers who can make sure those robots are designed, built, maintained and run efficiently.
Kainen, Escalera & McHale is one of the largest law firms in Connecticut dedicated to protecting and defending employers. Each of us has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment law and labor law and can help any employers with questions in this area of the law. Please contact us if we can help you.