Redefining Talent: The Rise of New Collar Workers

By Kellie Rondon on Jun 05, 2024
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In 2024 and beyond, the talent landscape is changing. Demographics are shifting, and as they say, “demographics are destiny.” Data shows that the attainment of college degrees for the nation’s young workers is declining, driven mostly by the perceived lack of necessity and fear of long-term debt. 

From this landscape, a new employee persona has emerged: the “new collar worker.” New collar workers are those who, despite lacking a four-year college degree, have the skills required to succeed in the workforce. 

New collar workers can be a rich source of untapped talent for employers. But first, it’s important to understand the barriers in place, even those held up unintentionally, to hiring from this talent pool. In this article, we’ll discuss why small to mid-sized businesses should invest in new collar workers, how they can attract them as applicants, and finally, where to turn for help getting started. 

RELATED:Recruit Veterans: Redefining Job Descriptions for Military Skillsets >> 

What Are New Collar Workers? 

Traditionally, the workforce has been divided into blue-collar and white-collar categories, but "new collar workers" occupy a unique space that blends elements of both. Unlike white-collar workers, they often lack university degrees, and unlike blue-collar workers, they are not solely engaged in manual labor. They are often referred to as “middle-skill” workers because, while jobs they’re a fit for require some skills or experience, they do not require an advanced degree. 

The rise of new collar workers as a significant segment of the workforce is likely due in large part to the advent of new technology: technology that needs to be understood and operated, and technology that eradicates much of the manual labor of the past. 

However, new collar workers aren’t just tech-savvy — they also find niches within different industries that require a trade, like healthcare or information technology. New collar workers frequently obtain and build their skills through self-teaching, work and internship experience, community college programs, trade schools, certification programs, and coding boot camps. 

gen z in the workplace

Where Can We Include New Collar Workers in Our Workforce? 

Recruiting new collar workers benefits both the employee and the employer. According to a recent joint study conducted by Harvard Business School and Accenture examining employers who hired new collar workers for open “middle-skill” roles (which required some education or training but not a bachelor’s degree), “no boosts in productivity” were found when those jobs were awarded to candidates with bachelor’s degrees versus when they were awarded to those without. Organizations that require a bachelor's degree for middle-skill jobs are unnecessarily winnowing their pool of available talent. 

The first step to pulling in new collar workers is to determine where it makes sense to do so. When and where to integrate new collar workers into your organization depends on your industry, employer size, and the nature of the open positions you have coming available to fill. In general, you might consider pulling new collar workers into the following positions: 

  • Technology and IT-focused roles 
  • Graphic design 
  • Content creation and social media management 
  • Customer service 
  • Project management 
  • Supply chain management
  • Healthcare support roles
  • Quality assurance 
  • Bookkeeping and accounting support 

hiring someone with a prior criminal record

How Can We Attract New Collar Workers as Applicants? 

  • Use the right applicant tracking software

    If your hiring teams are inadvertently filtering your job applications for required degrees, you could be missing out on this pool of untapped talent. The solution may be a partnership with HR experts who have access to advanced tracking software and who specialize in thoughtful recruitment. 
  • Review your job descriptions

    Do your job descriptions list degree attainment under their “requirements” automatically? If they do, re-focus on itemizing the skills an applicant will need to be successful in the role, rather than formal education. It’s always a good idea to review your job descriptions for exclusionary language that may dissuade applicants who could be effective in the position. 
  • Recruit where new collar workers are looking

    To attract new collar workers, meet them where they are. Post job listings on platforms frequented by individuals seeking nontraditional career paths, such as technical schools, community colleges, online job boards dedicated to tech and trade professions, and coding boot camps. 
  • Design intern and apprentice positions to create an in-house talent pipeline

    Establishing intern and apprentice positions can help build a talent pipeline within your organization. Internships and apprenticeships are focused on teaching the skills needed to be successful in a role. Unlike formal education, these programs are designed to specifically teach the keys to success within your organization.
  • Offer training and development opportunities

    When you take on a new collar worker, you’re making an investment in your workforce that will pay dividends over time. You can strengthen the ROI of this investment through continuous opportunities for learning and development. To make the most out of your employees’ time, learning and development programming should be unique to your organization and the employee’s position. To develop a training program that’s both unique to your workplace and expertly delivered, work with experienced HR consultants who know how to maximize the ROI of your L&D investments

RELATED: Why Employee Development Benefits Your Team and Your Business >> 

Axcet HR Solutions: Your Ticket to Hiring the Next Generation of New Collar Workers 

As you enter the next phase of talent development at your organization, it helps to have HR experts on your side. Axcet HR Solutions works hand in hand with you as you expand your recruitment horizons and find the right fit for every position, every time. 

Axcet HR Solutions is a certified professional employer organization (PEO) that is proud to offer small to mid-sized businesses comprehensive guidance on compliant recruitment, retention, L&D, and more. We can take the wheel on a full range of HR tasks, while you regain the time and resources needed to focus on growing and scaling your core business. Schedule a conversation today to learn more. 

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Written by Kellie Rondon

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