State of the Blue Collar Industry in 2017
Depending on who you ask, the blue collar trades industry in the United States has been dying a slow but steady and painful death for decades. But as the saying goes, you can’t always believe what you hear (or read). While international trade and globalization have changed the landscape of traditional manufacturing jobs in the United States and around the world over the last few decades, the impending total death of trade jobs has been somewhat exaggerated.
According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States was projected to generate in the ballpark of 20 million new jobs in the decade between 2010 and 2020, more than 2 million of which were projected to be new blue collar positions. That said, manufacturing jobs as a whole are still expected to decline to approximately 7 percent of all jobs in 2020 (down from just over 8 percent in 2010.)
So What’s a Budding (or Established) Blue Collar Trade Professional to Do?
Despite the generally bleak outlook, America still needs men and women who can work well with their hands. According to an analysis by USA Today, low- and middle-skill blue collar jobs will account for as much as 40 percent of new jobs by the end of 2017 (approximately 2.5 million job openings). And while the increasing economic shift toward white collar and creative jobs has continued to take up more and more of the employment pie in the United States, the good news is that skilled trade and blue collar workers remain in high demand. Depending on the field and particular position, many blue collar jobs still offer attractive earning potential and an opportunity for upward mobility through specialized skills development.
According to Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, “There’s a new middle. It’s tougher, and takes more skill.” The data compiled by the USA Today report, which examined blue collar job growth and salary statistics from 125 major U.S. metro areas, salaries for a cross section of jobs can range from $13/hour to start to well over $100,000/year, factoring in skill level and overtime. Even better? A healthy portion of the jobs in question may require a fraction of the education (and price tag) that currently comes along with a typical four-year college degree.
In fact, community colleges and trade schools are looking to help train the new generation of blue collar workers with the right skills to fill the needs of the current marketplace, which has changed dramatically due to technology and automation.
In addition, as the Baby Boomer generation hits retirement age and many manufacturers that need skilled workers find that sending jobs overseas can be more trouble than it’s worth, a process of “re-shoring” mid-level technical jobs has started to slowly emerge.
Where to Find the (Blue Collar) Jobs
USA Today’s report found that Houston could see as many as 100,000 middle-skill jobs by the end of 2017, with as many as 40 percent paying $20/hour and up. Dallas, Austin and San Antonio are also projected to see healthy middle-skill blue collar job growth.
With it’s growing film industry, Atlanta is the place to be for construction and trade-related film jobs. As of 2012, the city boasted more than 70,000 open film jobs paying an average of $80,000/year.
The takeaway? If you are hungry and willing to invest in a little training and skill set building, there may be a few blue collar employers eager to talk to you.
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