As the Industrial Revolution peaked in the U.S. at the end of the nineteenth century, workers’ rights were considerably undervalued and overlooked. Across the country, marches, protests and eventually the infamous Pullman Strike rocketed labor abuses to the top of the national agenda. After more than a decade of unofficial labor worker celebrations, Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. This annual national holiday now recognizes the contributions of every American worker to the country’s industrial progress.
Why the brief history lesson? Fast forward to 2022, when the last two years challenged, exhausted and endangered the world’s frontline workers. During the lockdown, essential workers across the globe showed up at hospitals, nursing homes, essential manufacturing facilities and grocery stores (to name a few), even when their safety and security were at risk. While I had the privilege of working from home, many of my friends continued to physically show up at work every day, building ships for the country’s defense. They carried an incredible work ethic matched by few. This federal holiday has never been more important.
As we enter Labor Day weekend, I find myself thinking not just about how valuable our workforce is but also about how it is changing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the next 10 years will bring about an aging labor force that is growing slowly with a declining overall labor force participation rate. The U.S. labor force is projected to reach 163.5 million in 2022.
We are seeing the beginnings of this “new collar” worker, an individual who develops the technical and soft skills needed to work in technology jobs through nontraditional education paths. These workers do not have a four-year degree like their predecessors. It is a major shift in industry—one that is changing the landscape of manufacturing.
I’m particularly excited to explore this topic in one of our feature sessions at AME’s annual international conference in Dallas this October, Learning that works: Recruiting and retaining the new collar workforce. In keeping with our theme of embracing disruption, this panel will discuss how companies are replenishing the talent pipeline with skilled, career-ready “new-collar” workers. There’s still time to register for the conference, virtually or in person. Visit our website to find the package that’s right for you. I hope to see you there!
To all of the workers across the globe, we celebrate and honor you, especially those who kept us safe, nourished and healthy over the past few years. We will never tire of letting you know how grateful we are to you. To my colleagues and friends, I wish you a wonderful Labor Day weekend.
As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.