(Bloomberg) — The pandemic has prompted blue-collar Americans – who have largely been left out of that trend – to seek career changes to work from home.
A new study from the Oliver Wyman Forum found that the desire for more work flexibility was a major motivation for blue-collar employees to make the transition. It also said that about four out of five who tried were successful.
“Despite being front and center during the spread of Covid-19, the well-being of blue-collar workers took a back seat,” the report said. “Most of the hours were watched in person – putting themselves and their loved ones at risk – while they watched their white-collar counterparts move to comfortable and secure remote setups with their jobs and payments protected.”
To be sure, any such move is on a small scale when measured against the overall labor force. Still, they could add to the difficulties facing American businesses as they try to fill a record number of vacant jobs – more than 10 million as of November – in a rebounding economy.
The Federal Reserve’s survey of manufacturing firms continues to highlight the shortfall. “Applicants are cheating,” one firm told the Kansas City Fed. “Not fast enough to meet current demand.”
Economists point to a reduction in wages, the covid disease, lack of childcare facilities and early retirement. Career rethinking could be another.
Research by Brad Hershbein, an economist at the WE Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, shows that last year compared to 2019 – there was a large migration from blue-collar jobs in construction or mining to more office-based sectors.
Using U.S. Census Bureau data for the three months through November, they calculated that between 6.5% and 8.4% of blue-collar workers from construction, transportation, and production who changed their jobs went to white-collar occupations. Went in.
The Oliver Wyman Forum study found that the shift from blue-to-white-collar work is most pronounced in IT industries, including cyber security and sales. The group’s survey respondents said they quit because they wanted more flexible hours and better benefits.
“If they gave me some of the flexibility we see our white-collar counterparts experiencing,” said one participant, “I would live happily ever after.”
Like the work-from-home option, benefits such as paid sick leave are not evenly distributed. The latter was available to only 59% of workers in service occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said last March, compared to 93% in management, professional and related occupations.
The pandemic has increased the demand for a better work environment, says Jerry Lee, co-founder of Vonsalting, which helps job-seekers from less privileged backgrounds find work.
He also says that companies with a shortage of talent are rethinking entry criteria for certain types of jobs – opening up alternative avenues for white-collar work.
For example, insurer AON plc has dropped the degree requirement for some positions and conducts its own specialized training through a local community college. International Business Machines Corporation and PwC have also relaxed their credentialing criteria.
College enrollment has dropped by nearly 1 million in the pandemic, with the biggest drop among men. Lee says free or low-cost programs have helped lower barriers to entry for some jobs. He cites Google Career Certificates, a program initially used by Alphabet Inc. to train its technical support staff, and has since been made public and expanded.
According to Google, most of the 50,000 graduates of the program identify as African-American, Hispanic, female or military veterans without a college degree.
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