Blue Collar Workers Considering Career Changes, Opt for Safer Work Options

Blue Collar Workers Considering Career Changes, Opt for Safer Work Options
Construction workers stand in the northbound lanes of the Coquihalla Highway where a massive section of the separate southbound lanes was washed away by flooding last month near Othello northeast of Hope, B.C., Dec. 10, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
Naveen Athrappully

As the pandemic loomed, the world’s population went under lockdown and most people started working from homes but this trend has not been applicable to a majority of workers who could not afford that privilege—the blue-collar employees.

After seeing their office-going counterparts simply shifting their work stations and continuing to work remotely, sitting in the comfort and safety of their homes, blue-collar workers have now started considering changing their careers. While toiling in construction sites and mines has ensured a steady income, the pandemic has disrupted work continuity and brought about a host of new challenges including the spread of new infectious variants that the workers could potentially bring back home.

“Rather than accept this fate, many New Collars set their sights on new horizons. More optimistic, community-oriented, resilient, and risk-taking than the general population, they reinvented themselves,” said a report from a study by the Oliver Wyman Forum, referring to the shifting workers as New Collars.

“They learned new skills to get the compensation and flexibility they crave and deserve, and their hard work has started to pay off. Many are shifting to better jobs, creating an even tighter labor market as baby boomers also retire. Blue-collar work remains a crucial component of the global economy, and while wages are rising, employers must act swiftly to close the gap between job demand and workers available given the accelerating departures.”

Seventy percent are “optimistic” regarding their ability to find new jobs, 41 percent are in the process of searching and 22 percent have “successfully transitioned” to office jobs, according to the study. A quarter of them have gone into software, electronics engineering, or IT/data processing.

Nearly half of the job seekers took advantage of free online courses while only one percent went back to traditional schools to learn the requisite new skills. While 97 percent would like to stay at their present jobs provided they were given pay raises and a better work-life balance, 84 percent have up-skilled themselves for better opportunities.

“The need for blue-collar work is now more crucial than ever, as order books are 6 to 12 months deep, and demand for blue-collar labor in many developed countries outstrips demand for white-collar labor,” said the study indicating a persistent demand for these types of jobs that are essential for the economy.

Unlike white-collar jobs where loyalty is mostly questionable, “there is history, culture, and community in blue-collar work, and they are careful to evaluate their options before they depart.”

A by-product of remote work has been a detachment towards the company and fellow co-workers. When employees have never physically met or bonded with peers, changing jobs becomes a rather easy affair. All things remain the same except the connections on Zoom.