‘New Collar’ Jobs Call for New Learning Approaches


Organizations are struggling to find enough talent, but part of the problem could be reliance on outdated approaches that don’t fit current business realities.

Rapidly changing skill requirements, coupled with historically low unemployment rates, mean that companies can’t always wait for someone to earn a college degree in an area that’s related to the job they’re trying to fill, according to Ian Siegal, co-founder and CEO of ZipRecruiter.

Instead, companies can rev up the learning process and fast track the skill sets of employees to earn a license or credential or develop aptitudes in areas where organizations are experiencing talent shortages or skills gaps, he told Bloomberg Law.

Such an approach is particularly effective for "new collar" jobs, Siegal said, borrowing a term that was introduced in 2016 by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty to describe middle-skill jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.

Renaissance in Training

One approach that has begun to encompass new technology is vocational training, a tool traditionally applied to fields such as heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC).

"This is nouveau vocational training that can instantly launch you into a career and middle class. There’s a renaissance in education and vocational training happening right now," Siegal said.

In an environment of full employment, opportunities to skip the degree path and jump into the workforce abound, and these emerging options appeal to people who prefer earning a paycheck over spending years and a lot of money to earn a college degree, Siegal added.

Create the Right Hire

Organizations need to look beyond typical education expectations, since technology is changing so rapidly that traditional programs aren’t keeping up with the demand for workers who possess needed skills, according to Juha Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy, a Miami-based computer training school that calls itself a "coding bootcamp."

Wyncode has a Custom Cohort program through which it can provide on-site training to create a pool of job candidates with skills tailored to the specifications of client companies. Wyncode recruits participants, and after they complete the program, the company can select which trained candidates to hire.

Most companies aren’t used to recruiting this way, Mikkola told Bloomberg Law. They typically look at the degree experience, whereas Wyncode focuses on other attributes.

An individual’s potential is more important than a college degree or prior work experience, according to Mikkola. "We don’t identify the things they’ve done in the past; motivation and work ethic are what matters."

Readjust Skills for the Future

With so much rapid change in the business world, it’s not clear what some of the future jobs will be, according to Stephanie Penner, senior partner at Mercer. In response, organizations increasingly seek people who are eager to learn and take on new tasks, rather than workers who possess a specific skill that might soon be outdated, she told Bloomberg Law.

Companies can help employees reshape their existing skills to meet changing needs, Penner said. For example, a store switching to self-service checkout may need fewer cashiers, but the displaced cashiers might shift over to a role in which they provide assistance to customers, she said.

"In an age when people are actually getting more excited about constantly learning, we can tell them that instead of being a cashier, we can build on those skills and train them into something else," she said.

Organizations are helping employees to reskill, upskill, and reshape skills so they can see themselves in the future, Penner said.

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