You’ve likely heard of white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs, but you might not have heard of “new-collar” jobs — at least, not yet. Otherwise known as “middle-skill” jobs, these occupations are open to workers with technical skills but without a traditional, four-year college degree.
Getting a Break
The New York Times profiled one such worker in West Virginia this summer. Sean Bridges, a 25-year-old security analyst, makes $45,000 a year working for IBM — enough to support himself and begin climbing the career ladder.
The Times reports:
“I got one big break,” he said. “That’s what I needed.”
Mr. Bridges represents a new but promising category in the American labor market: people working in so-called new-collar or middle-skill jobs. As the United States struggles with how to match good jobs to the two-thirds of adults who do not have a four-year college degree, his experience shows how a worker’s skills can be emphasized over traditional hiring filters like college degrees, work history and personal references. And elevating skills over pedigree creates new pathways to employment and tailored training and a gateway to the middle class.
IBM has 5,000 job openings in the U.S., and workers like Bridges can help fill them. In fact, IBM writes in their THINKPolicy blog that the time has never been better to focus on “new collar” for the tech industry:
“What matters most in today’s workforce is having relevant, in-demand skills. Critical technologies like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are pushing the limits of traditional job recruiting, forcing employers – especially in the technology industry – to shift mindsets and explore new sources of talent to address our clients’ needs.”
Getting the Skills
There are lots of training programs that aim to connect those with the skills and aptitude — but maybe not a college degree, which takes time and money to achieve — to the employers looking to boost their workforce. Nonprofits like TechHire help to fund skills in underserved communities, and Microsoft-endorsed initiatives like Skillfull, which also helps to bridge those gaps between HR and the hired.
HR is going to need a bit of a sea change when it comes to hiring for “new-collar” types. Instead of having application software that ticks off degrees achieved and jobs held, hiring managers will have to focus on skills and abilities … and the desire to keep learning.
Sound like hiring of yesteryear? It kind of is! In IBM’s blog, a manager who works for IBM Cloud writes, “A candidate’s interest in ongoing personal learning and development is a strong indicator that they will be able to continue to embrace growth and change and develop their careers once at IBM.”
Tell Us What You Think
Are you a “new-collar” worker? We want to hear from you! Tell us your story in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.