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  • Wendell Brock

Bringing Back the Blue Collar

We’re seeing a shift in the popularity of collar colors. For years parents and high school councilors have  encouraged young people to pursue traditional college educations and settle into a high paying white-collar job with a white picket fence to go with it. The prioritization of college degrees over trade careers has created an increasing shortage of skilled blue-collar workers in the US. There are over 9 million unfilled blue-collar jobs. So what do we do when the backbone of our economy starts to give out?

There is a demand for skilled trades people, which is outpacing the supply of people qualified to fill those roles. This shortage has increased the demand, which in turn has increased what businesses are willing to pay those workers. Between 2010 and 2012 the wage increase for blue color jobs went up only .6% compared to the increase of 4.5% for white collar jobs. However, between 2020 and 2022 those same blue color jobs increased pay by 14%, where the white-collar jobs only saw an increase of 7.5%. Wage gains for some blue-collar jobs have started to outpace gains for white collar jobs over the last three years. The combined shortage of trade workers and higher pay is driving up costs, creating a domino effect in our economy.

The starting pay for most white-collar jobs is still higher than entry level blue-collar jobs, but under the latest economic stress we’re seeing more and more layoffs in the white-collar world. Companies are turning to AI, replacing many employees as businesses try to cut back and ease the pinching pressure of our struggling economy. The result: many white-collar jobs are not as stable as they used to be.

Eight of the ten highest earning industries for small business ownership come from blue-collar industries including: construction, roofing, flooring, painting, heating & air conditioning, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical- all of which can earn more than $5,000 a month. This challenges the idea that you need to have a four-year degree in order to stand amongst the top earners of the country.

Blue-collar workers have always been the backbone of the United States and play a vital role in the American economy. In order to fuel a healthy economy, we need to find a balance between the blue-collar and the white-collar, this may require a shift in perspective as we help the young and upcoming workforce realize that blue-collar jobs are worth investing their time in. This country was built on the hard work of people willing to get their hands dirty and put in the extra effort.

Photo by: Jason Richard

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