These days, the demand for blue-collar workers is reaching all-time highs, but so too is the shortage of workers. Blue-collar workers are an aging demographic, and there are far too few new workers entering the blue-collar industries.
The shortage of blue-collar workers can be seen in the industries of construction, manufacturing, and transportation. The economic boom, due to Trump’s tax cuts and deregulations, has highlighted the lack of workers as the industries tried to cope with the increased demands of the market. Construction projects have slowed down as contractors struggle to fill their ranks with the necessary skilled workers. Manufacturing companies have expanded their operations, creating new jobs to meet the additional demand for goods. The pool of skilled workers in manufacturing has all but emptied, limiting their expansion to a certain extent. The transportation industry felt the brunt of the worker shortage. Trucks are left unused, and schedules are delayed as there are too few drivers to meet the increased demands. In all three industries, the median age is above 40 — going as high as 55 in transportation. These industries are desperate for new workers to fill their ranks as more and more workers are reaching retirement age.
Fears and Misconceptions
The media have primarily stoked the fear of jobs vanishing due to automation. Robots taking over blue-collar jobs have been a popular narrative, but experts predict that no widespread unemployment will occur due to technological advancement. Automation will have minimal effects on skilled workers as automation in construction, manufacturing, and transportation seek only to assist and not replace actual workers. Robots in development and production are designed for the simplest tasks, built to speed up work and increase worker efficiency. AI in transportation is limited in scope, similar to a plane’s autopilot. It can take over once a truck reaches a highway and only needs to follow a set route, but a driver is still necessary to make complicated driving decisions or deal with unforeseen circumstances.
One other thing that drives the younger generation away from blue-collar work is the misconception of low wages. Though unskilled jobs may pay less compared to regular office work, this is not true for skilled blue-collar workers. Jobs in construction, manufacturing, and transportation have already crossed the $30 per hour mark. Chances are, wages will continue to rise as older workers retire and the demand for new workers grow. Trade schools are now becoming attractive alternatives to college. Trade school graduates get the capability to earn wages at par with college graduates without being saddled with massive student loans. Skilled blue-collar workers are also much more in-demand, putting them at a much better bargaining position and ensuring no lack of available jobs.
In the end, America’s blue-collar workforce is aging, but this creates new opportunities for new workers. Wages have reached all-time highs, and companies are doing their best to attract new workers, whether it’s by providing better benefits or adding a few incentives to the job.