More blue-collar workers have taken advantage of the time off during the pandemic to explore, secure, and obtain high-tech and knowledge-based jobs.
The lure: Better wages and hours, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. More than 10% of Americans in lower-paying positions in warehouses, manufacturing, hospitality and other hourly jobs have made such a change in the past two years, according to new research by Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm, shared with the Journal.
Why is this transition taking place and what are the implications for hiring organizations, individuals and higher education?
Driving the trend is the huge ongoing adaptation of digitalization – and the availability of free or relatively inexpensive training in digital technologies.
The implications are as follows:
For workers. It bodes well for society that barriers to advancement in the knowledge economy are being broken down. It mitigates the formation of class barriers based on formal education.
For employers. Whether for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, the new streamlined training programs allow employers to look beyond four-year degree requirements and instead, at least for some positions, to hire for ability, motivation and customer service experience.
For higher education. The outlook for colleges and universities is mixed, but substantially negative.
Community colleges, with their low tuition and hands-on focus, should be well positioned to meet the needs of people who want a narrowly focused professional digital certification.
But for four-year-old establishments, already facing demographic challenges, the outlook is potentially dire. The modern college has become an administratively heavy and extremely expensive institution, which greatly relaxes the availability of student loans.
The return on investment of four-year degrees is increasingly questioned, as many degrees do not easily translate into well-paying jobs.
Only in the past two generations has a college degree first become preferred and then required for professional work. The best universities will survive – and even thrive.
But it is in society’s interest to reduce the barriers to the well-paid work of tomorrow.
Isaac Cheifetz, a Twin Cities executive recruiter, can be reached through catalytic1.com.