Are You Prepared for “New-Collar” Workers? - American Society of Employers - Anthony Kaylin

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Are You Prepared for “New-Collar” Workers?

With employers dropping degree requirements, a new set of potential employees has emerged in the workplace: “New-Collar” workers.  According to the Harvard Business Review, many workers are unable to advance because they don’t have a bachelor’s degree and conversely cannot obtain the higher level, higher paying jobs.  Since the labor shortage is becoming acute, with an official unemployment rate of 3.9% nationally, and even lower in Michigan in many places, being creative in skill development and job advancement is an HR priority.

What makes the degree requirement more interesting is that women are more likely to go to college and graduate than men.  Therefore, there appears to be a different type of subtle discrimination going on with the degree requirement.  If all are to play on a level playing field, HR needs to step up.  For example, working with Manufacturing Technicians who may have long experience and raising them up to a Jr. Engineering position, even though they may just have a high school or equivalent degree or associates at best.  Therefore, the focus is to hire for attitude and then build the skills. 

One way to take this on as well as employee retention is to offer apprenticeships.  Although it takes time and effort to do it, apprenticeships have many benefits.  First, apprenticeships can be for any job, for example, SHRM has tools for HR apprenticeships.  Apprenticeships allow employers to recruit and develop a highly skilled workforce that helps grow their business, specifically because apprenticeships generally pay higher than regular trainee wages.  Moreover, apprenticeships can focus on specific jobs and skills.  Employers can create flexible training options that ensure workers develop the right skills.  Apprenticeships do not necessarily mean union; therefore, the flexibility to create the program the employer needs is not limited to CBAs.  Finally, employers, if doing it right, can receive tax credits and employee tuition benefits in participating states.

Another way is to partner with community organizations and target socio-economic communities who otherwise would not have access to any of these jobs.  A number of positives come out of this approach.  First, the employer brand is enhanced within the community because it is seen as an investor in the community.  Second, adjunct recruiters through various community groups will assist, reducing recruitment costs, since attitude and the ability to learn is foremost for the new-collar recruiting.  Third, it is true diversity in action, not DEI with all its baggage, and employees will see it as a positive action in their community, again enhancing the employer brand.

Some barriers though have to be dismantled.  First, HR and hiring managers must review all jobs to determine what degree if any is necessary or not.  Account Receivables or Account Payables may not need degrees, and once in, the employee can be supported in a variety of ways from classwork to certifications to tuition reimbursement to grow their career.  They may not be CFO or controller material initially, but given the career development and time, they could be.  More importantly, once the “true” requirements for a job are identified, partner and develop the internal programs to grow the employee.  That takes investment of money and time.  Although everyone is invested in profitability, sometimes a step backwards equals two steps forward.  HR has to be the advocate for it.

In the long-run, employers will have many labor pressures on them from the talent war to the union efforts.  Showing that management is serious about investing in their employees and walk the talk will have long-term positive residuals. 


Source: Forbes 2/4/24


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