Blue-collar jobs are those jobs that involve manual work involving skilled or unskilled labor. The members who earn their wages through these jobs are categorized as the working class. Their wages are earned on an hourly basis. Blue-collar jobs include working in the industries of manufacturing, mining, construction, electrical maintenance, driving, trucking, shipping, food processing, farming, oil field work, fishing, logging, landscaping, waste collection, recycling, excavation, electricity generation, power plant operations and many other physical work involving activities.
History Behind the Term – Blue-collar jobs
In the early 1920s, the term gained popularity after first appearing in an article pertaining to the clothing worn by manual workers. They preferred wearing navy blue or light blue to conceal the grease and dirt which had a high propensity of soiling their clothes owing to the type of job they do. The white-colored shirts were more preferred by those who worked from behind a desk. Soon the color scheme had come to have socio-economic class attributions. The only reason why this differentiation has not become a mainstay is because of the increasing necessity for skilled labor and increase in the low-paying white-collar jobs.
The Use of the Term “Blue Collar”
The term “blue-collar” since its advent in the dictionary has not been confined to describing jobs. But rather it has now become an adjective. Blue-collar use has extended to a locality, crimes committed, etc. From Blue-collar bullying to blue-collar scholar its use has become diversified.
For instance, if a person from a blue-collar workforce commits a crime, it becomes a blue-collar crime or if a person from a blue-collar workforce family, goes on to become an academician, he/she is now referred to as a blue-collar scholar. The term has grown from being an identity given by a journalist to now being an offensive way of referring to people. Its use is as offensive as the use of the now censored vocabulary.
Other Types of Work
- White Collar: In this type, employees usually work from an office environment by sitting at a computer or at a desk. These employees usually have a contract binding them of their duties and salaries.
- Pink Collar: In this type, employees deal with customer and client interaction or the entertainment division. These employees are usually paid on an hourly basis, few are hired per project or with salaries. Their salary pay scales depend on the work they do and the expertise they yield.
- Grey Collar: In this type, employees who are not included in either blue or white-collar are included. Also included are the elderly individuals who are employed beyond their retirement age.
- Green Collar: In this type, employees from the environmental sectors of the economy are included. These workers’ jobs include satisfying the need for green development.
Since the blue-collar jobs mostly involve manual work, not even high school education is required, most of the skills of the job are acquired by the worker while employed and working. Exceptions to these are few positions like electrician or plumber or mechanic where state certification or vocational training may be a prerequisite for the job.
Despite the stigma surrounding being employed in a blue collared job, these jobs do pay the employee well, when the job chosen is just right. The jobs currently offering a high pay in the blue-collar job category include the electrician, conductor, divers, plumber, criminal investigator, avionics technician, construction inspector, aircraft mechanic, repair manager, boilermaker, production manager, general contractor, etc. These jobs pay around 50,000 USD annually and hence are worth looking into as stable career choices. With increasing unemployment statistics even among those qualified, the number of people opting for blue-collar jobs is increasing.
How to Get a Blue Collar Job?
- Step 1 – Research
Study up on the blue-collar jobs available that might interest you enough to pursue them as a career choice. You could even contact a fellow blue-collar worker for an interview as to how the job is going for him, so you could know about the work environment from those with experience in the field. Interactions like these will help you know more about the job you are about to dive into. And also you might also find out what the employers look for in their employee?, Faint idea about the role your job entails for you, their satisfaction in their role and also any ideas for growth.
- Step 2 – Know Your Skills
Few blue-collar jobs require you to have specialized skills in performing tasks. And to develop your own set of skills, first, you will need to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. This will help you choose an industry in which you think you will fit in better. Some strengths include precision, discipline, persistence, patience, leadership skills, collaboration skills, ethics, responsibility, etc. Some weaknesses include self-criticism, lack of experience, taking on responsibility, being introverted, etc.
- Step 3 – Training
Honing your skills is important and is more likely to make you a suitable candidate for the job. From the research you have done pertaining to the industry you are interested in, look for the desired skill set and apply for an internship or apprenticeship which helps you learn while on the job and also helps you boost your resume. Many online and offline certification courses are available for developing various skills from communication to mechanics, you choose from the thousands of courses available for you.
- Step 4 – Applying for the Job
After certifications, internships, you now have a strong resume in your hands which is the first step to landing the job of your choice. If your resume is selected, you will be called in for an interview, you need to be prepared to answer the questions honestly, being yourself. Do not surf the internet and learn the answers to questions asked routinely, instead keep the conversation real and show them how you are the right choice for the job.
Some Necessary Skills for Blue Collar Jobs
Possessing these skills is an advantage for blue-collar job workers, it helps them work better and smarter.
- Mechanical Skills – Having knowledge of the machinery they would have to run, helps them keep up with deadlines and maintain the machinery without errors. It would always be easier to have an employee at hand who knows how to fix the machinery when it breaks down, instead of having to wait for a company representative to come by and fix the problem.
- Technical Skills – Some blue-collar jobs require you to work computer technology to navigate through service employees and their clients and be updated. This way you can enhance the quality of employees’ systems and determine the best way to troubleshoot the problems. Also possible is that blue-collar job personnel may receive their work order through computerized systems.
- Problem Solving Skills – Unexpected situations are common in the blue-collar job arena. Having the ability to handle and solve problems analytically at ease is an important skill. A few examples of problems that may arise include shortage of staff on the job contracted, unexpected weather changes, machinery breakdown, etc.
- Physical Ability – Of all the above skills, this is the most important one. Since most of the blue-collar jobs include manual work more than analytical or technical work. You will be needing hand-eye coordination in some, the ability to lift heavy weights in others, or the ability to withstand extended hours of manual labor. You will need to be in a good position health-wise so your body can withstand the exertion awaiting it in the job.
Automation and its Effect
The blue-collar job category includes a vast majority of unskilled workers and automation poses a threat to their jobs. It has already been established by various studies that using machinery replacing unskilled workers in the industry has rendered many of them unemployed. For example, the packaging industry previously used to employ workers for all the work done which is now done hands-free by machines.
It is expected that while they are losing their jobs, a number of coders will be employed to manage the technologically advanced machinery now employed for the production purpose. And if this continues it can be predicted that white-collar jobs will soon be replacing blue-collar jobs. Despite this, there are some enthusiastic optimists who believe that in the future blue-collar jobs mean humans and technology working together improving the efficiency of one another. However, technology still remains the enemy for rendering many blue-collar job holders unemployed.
The Blue-Collar Shift to Developing Nations
Due to the current economic, technological, and social trends developed nations have more white-collar jobs to offer. They outsource blue-collar jobs like production to other developing nations. When we are specific to The United States of America, blue-collared jobs include precision production, craft and repair jobs, machine operators, machine inspectors, transport and moving jobs, handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers. Due to the surge in the information technology arena, deindustrialization has started and the requirement for the blue-collar workforce has decreased.
Blue Collar Jobs and Women
Just like gender discrimination is prevalent in all the other categories of work, it is prevalent even in blue-collar jobs. They are sidelined in all aspects from wages to job opportunities. This comes from the long-rooted stereotype that men are physically stronger and can endure stress better than women do. Another reason is that women are rarely promoted, men are most often chosen for the positions of higher pay because it is believed that men can concentrate on their work a hundred percent whereas women cannot since they also have to handle their family and children. Also, many companies prefer employing men over women because it has been believed for centuries that men are more efficient in their jobs.
Blue-Collar Jobs and Society
Blue-collar job holders are not losers, they are hard workers who just did not get a chance to attend college. They form an equally important part of the nation’s workforce. Their involvement is necessary for ensuring everything is functioning smoothly.
Blue-Collar Jobs and Pay
Wages paid to the blue-collar job holders are never on par with the effort put in the worker. Be it running a fast food center or working as a handyman, they are all underpaid. For the number of hours they put in on the job, the pay does not match. They spend most part of the day working and still at the end of the day, they do not earn enough to feed their family. In the blue-collar jobs category, both extremes exist in terms of pay. While some jobs pay as well as the white-collar jobs do, some don’t pay the employee enough to feed his or her family.
The Health of a Blue-Collar Employee
Blue-collar job holders usually do not have specified timing for their jobs. They could be called in at any hour of the day or night. It comes in the worst form for the construction laborers since they begin their workday by 6 am and finish up at 11 pm with rarely enough time for food breaks. This type of ignorance in terms of self-care has a very negative effect on an individual’s health in the long run. They also work in an environment harmful physically, mentally, and socially. For example, a construction laborer is always at risk of physical harm due to fall, machinery injury, etc; a worker in an industry is always at the risk of a machinery injury, chemical accidents, etc; a blue-collar worker keeps virtually impossible hours making it difficult to keep up with social engagements or have enough time for self, this puts them in the at-risk category with regards to mental health. Not all of the employees are covered by the health benefits. Only a few employed with companies are entitled to health benefits. A reason as to why workers do not seek medical help immediately when they are ill.
Incentives for Blue Collar Workers
- Offering Apprenticeship – This would help normalize blue-collar jobs and would help break the stigma surrounding blue-collar jobs. Another way of looking at this would be to offer the employees an opportunity to grow and advance in their careers and climb ranks.
- Peer Recognition – This would boost the morale of the employee and also reassure the employee that their efforts and contributions are being noticed.
- Group Outings – Ensuring a positive work environment amongst the workers would help raise the overall job satisfaction of the employee. Especially for those working in a high-risk environment where they have to trust their peers for ensuring their safety. In such situations, it is of immense importance that the team trusts and believes in each other.
- Offering Rewards – Rewards can be monetary, tangible, or experimental. Monetary rewards include performance-based incentives or raise, this is considered as an acceptable way to recognize an employee’s effort and contribution to the company. Tangible rewards include personalized gear, gift baskets, safety equipment, etc. Experimental rewards vary from lunch with the CEO to paid vacations to free tickets to the next game.
Amongst all the incentives offered to the employees, nothing surpasses the public recognition of their peers or their superiors for their efforts and contributions. It’s vital that the employees feel valued and appreciated. Another way to make the employees feel valued and appreciated is to listen to them and their concerns and try to address their concerns. Incentives of any form tend to boost the workers’ morale and help build a workforce that trusts and respects one another.
Blue-collar jobs mainly entail manual labor and are offered to anyone with the skill set irrespective of their educational status. Depending on the individual’s skill set, earnings vary from an hourly wage of 20 USD to 50,000 USD annually. Like with any other category job, with proper research and training, landing the perfect job is a piece of cake here too. Most employers in the blue-collar category look for special and specific skill sets. These specific skill sets are attainable through various certifiable courses available online and offline. Having a special skill sets aids in your journey of growth in your chosen career path. It has been sadly noted that many manual workers lost their jobs to automation and deindustrialization.
As we look through the positive aspects and cherish them, we cannot ignore the negative aspects. For women, the issues begin with wage disparity, for others, it is not being paid on par with the effort, for construction laborers it would be a lack of following proper safety precautions at the site and the long work hours. The health of the workers is a major concern since the wages they make would not be enough to cover their medical costs and to cover this, many employers provide their employees with medical benefits. It is time everyone notes and understands that work done by the blue-collar workers is important in ensuring that everything is functioning properly in society and without them, society would be entangled in chaos.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is a blue-collar worker?
A blue-collar worker belongs to the working class and performs manual labor which could be skilled or unskilled.
- What is the difference between white-collar and blue-collar?
The main distinguishing feature between the both would be the pay disparity. Others include that white-collar workers tend to work from behind a desk whereas the blue-collar workers have to toil and get their hands dirty; white-collar workers have to be well educated unlike for blue-collar workers education is not a requirement.
- Will a blue-collar employer employ you, if you are a high school dropout?
Yes, a blue-collar employer will employ you based on your skill set pertaining to the job you have been employed for. For most jobs, educational knowledge is not a required qualification.
- Will I have the opportunity to choose to be employed on a part-time basis?
Yes, you can choose to work on a part-time basis depending on the job you have applied for. You could also freelance through various freelancing platforms, this way you could choose your work hours.
- What skills are required for a blue-collar employee?
Skills required for a blue-collar employee include general skills and specific skills. Specific skills are job-oriented, some of the jobs require certification depending on the expertise required. General skills include mechanical skills (for an operator it would be the ability to work the machinery), technical skills (due to technological advances, a worker may be receiving their work orders through virtual communication), problem-solving skills (problems come up unannounced workers need to be able to work around them), physical ability (blue-collar are defined in short as manual work).
- What do blue-collar workers get paid?
The pay varies per your skillset. The payments vary from being hourly to earning on an annual salary basis with a job contract. The wages vary from 20 USD per hour to around 50,000 USD per year
- What are some examples of blue-collar jobs?
Manufacturing unit workers, miners, construction laborers, electrical maintenance workers, electricians, drivers, truckers, shipping yard workers, shipping dock workers, food processing unit workers, farmers, oil field workers, fishery industry workers, logging, landscapers, waste collection workers, recycling industry workers, excavation site workers, electricity generation unit workers, power plant operator, crime scene cleaners, sanitation industry workers, police officers, production managers, aviation technicians, divers, plumbers, aircraft mechanics, construction inspector, general contractor, any many more.
- What do employers look for while recruiting for blue-collar jobs?
Employers look for skills matching the job requirement, problem-solving skills, communication skills, experience, and feedback from your previous employers amongst others.
- What are the other benefits offered to a blue collared employee?
Depending on the employer, a blue-collar employee receives safety and performance bonuses, other monetary rewards would be gift cards, floating holidays, and paid lunches. They are also offered health benefits including mental health benefits by their employer.