SumTotal Blog

The Role of New Collar Workers in Closing Skills Gaps

August 12, 2021 | by SumTotal Blog | 3 min read

We’ve always been quick to categorize people based on what type of work they do. In the past, it was blue-collar and white-collar. Today, it’s a bit different. There’s a growing number of new “categories” of workers, such as those who freelance full-time or are independent contractors. But have you heard of the new-collar worker?

A new-collar worker is an individual who chooses nontraditional education paths to develop the technical and soft skills needed to succeed within certain positions. Rather than get a four-year degree, they’ll often obtain education through alternative means, such as community colleges, vocational schools, certification programs, apprenticeships, or internships.

The new-collar worker is highly coveted as organizations race to compete for candidates, close their skills gaps, and remain competitive.

Where the term came from

The term new-collar worker comes from IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who used it to refer to IBM employees that take on the more technical jobs. New-collar workers account for about 15 percent of IBM’s U.S. hiring each year.

Though the term was first associated with the tech industry, it now encompasses technical jobs in areas like healthcare and manufacturing.

In healthcare, new-collar workers are your technicians, assistants, and programmers. Within manufacturing, they’re the people managing automation, analyzing data, and working with CAD files and programs. Beyond these industries, you’ll see new-collar workers in roles that involve cloud computing, data mining, security analysis, and advanced machine operation and maintenance.

How to hire a new-collar worker

Finding the right new-collar worker means a significant shift in hiring strategies. Historically, hiring managers focused on college degrees, GPAs, and former job experience. Today, it’s about looking beyond the bullet points on a resume to evaluate potential over experience.

The hiring process starts the same way an internal professional development plan does: Creating a list of skills.

But instead of building a customized professional development program, you’ll use that skills list to modify your hiring process. Transfer the time you’d take reviewing a resume and develop a method to assess whether applicants have the traits and skills you want. You’ll still need to review applicant resumes but instead focus on identifying skills they gained in previous roles or projects.

What we can learn from new-collar workers

When hiring a new-collar worker, look for individuals who are willing to learn and adapt. Whether that means they come prepared or need to develop specific skills on the job, adaptability is essential.

New-collar workers should inherently have a foundation of soft skills and technical know-how to make this growth easier. Even if they need further development during onboarding, you know they’re building on a solid foundation.

Plus, these skills will come in handy as new employees start to learn their new roles, company, and responsibilities.

What’s next?

Hiring new-collar workers is crucial, though so is upskilling your existing workforce.

Invest in your current employees and help them build skills that will aid them in their current roles and provide them an opportunity for career growth. Not only will this satisfy current employees, but it will also make your workforce more productive, agile, and efficient.

To learn more about closing skills gaps, read “3 Steps to Upskill and Reskill Employees.”

3 Steps to Upskill and Reskill Employees

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