From the CEO: Is Gen Z favoring blue-collar jobs over white-collar jobs?

AME | April 11, 2024

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day titled “How Gen Z is Becoming the Toolbelt Generation.” The article shared that Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, are rapidly ditching college and traditional schools and choosing skilled trades instead.

Rising pay and new technologies appear to be attracting this generation. The article cited, “Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23% during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7%.”

I learned that the median pay for new construction hires rose 5.1% to $48,089 last year. By contrast, new hires in professional services earned an annual $39,520, according to data from payroll services provider ADP.

This article shared that, according to a survey by software company Jobber, 75% of high school and college-age people said they would be interested in vocational schools offering paid, on-the-job training. I found it fascinating that the majority of respondents Jobber surveyed said they thought blue-collar jobs offered better job security than white-collar ones, given the growth of AI.

AME volunteer Glenn Marshall shared that between 2020 and 2030, about 60 percent of new jobs in the economy will be in occupations that don’t typically require an associate, bachelor or graduate degree. In Virginia, the New Horizons Regional Education Center is preparing students for a variety of trades, including construction, auto body, welding, marine service technology, mechatronics and much more. According to Michael McGraw, executive director of the Pennsylvania Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, the trades have seen an influx of workers since the pandemic. He shared, “After Covid, it seemed a lot of people realized the trades are a life-sustaining career path ... as other businesses shut down then, more people realized that the skilled trades were reliable, well-paying paths that weren’t going away."

It appears we are moving past the challenge of finding talent, and now the focus will be on retaining this “New Collar Worker.” AME is your go-to source for help. People-centric leadership and building a meaningful work environment are key. If you want to learn more, join us for a virtual FREE session on April 15: People-Centric Leadership: The driving force for employee engagement and another virtual FREE event on April 18: Building meaningful employment environments.

As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.