New Collar Job Update: Positions Available, Robots Need Not Apply

So, although there are available positions, those individuals that are looking for jobs often do not have proper training to fill the new positions.

Back in November, the Navigator featured an article about new terms in the economic development and workforce lexicon: “new collar jobs.” The term was coined by IBM in an effort to reframe the skills and training needed in today’s workforce. New collar jobs are those that typically do not require a 4-year bachelor’s degree, but rather specific technical or trade skills that could be learned on the job or through a targeted certificate program led by employers or community colleges. 

In the case of the Hudson Valley in New York, programs are being offered in partnership between IBM and several State University of New York (SUNY) schools. At SUNY Ulster, the goal is to bolster the ecosystem around technology development, leading the way for a “mini-Silicon Valley of the East” in the Hudson Valley. In addition to training, part of the program is designed to educate students about required skills and the work environments they might find themselves in at a technology related job. IBM reports that they are constantly searching for thousands of workers to fill various positions because most candidates do not fit the exact requirements needed for the field. The collaboration between SUNY schools and IBM aims to alleviate this skills mismatch and prepare workers for the jobs of today – and the future.

It is not just positions in the technology sector that are going unfilled, but in the manufacturing and trades sectors as well. The takeover of automation has been the headline when it comes to recent workforce trends, and for good reason. Turning to robots to complete repetitive and predictable tasks can boost productivity and slash input costs for firms. Not to mention, they will now hold the door open for you as well. Last month, the Navigator featured extensive analysis on occupations that were most likely to be automated in the Featured Indicator and this related article

The reality of automation trends coincides with the fact that many manufacturers still have trouble filling positions on the production floor. This is leading the private sector to create programs that train individuals in-house. Firms have eliminated low-skill jobs that can be easily automated, but these positions have been replaced, at a larger magnitude in some subsectors, with positions that require a completely distinct set of skills to carry out more software management and technology maintenance. So, although there are available positions, those individuals that are looking for jobs often do not have proper training to fill the new positions. This is something that workforce development professionals and economic developers have heard from industry leaders like IBM for several years, but it’s an issue which has seen only incremental progress.

The President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, recently acknowledged in his State of Manufacturing address that the future of the industry is reliant on shifting the understanding of what the typical training for manufacturing positions require.

“It’s about ‘new collar’ jobs – jobs that are high-tech, 21st century, rewarding, well-paying jobs – even those that don’t require a four-year degree.” - Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers

The challenges presented require multi-faceted partnerships and a complex understanding of what is needed to create an efficient feedback system for employers to indicate to educational institutions what skills are in demand. Finding the balance in embracing technology to fuel productivity and create products with space-age characteristics could help the next generation work in collaboration with, instead of counter to, rapidly changing technology advancements.

We are making headway. Check out the hashtag #newcollarjobs, for great examples of training programs and collaborations across the country from IBM and other employers. 

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