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Training a new generation of blue-collar workers

The challenge of recruiting for the blue-collar workforce is not dwindling. After overcoming a workforce shortage and hiring new employees, the journey is not complete. Training and keeping a new generation of blue-collar workers are entirely different arenas. 


A New Generation of Blue-Collar Workers

Many enter the blue-collar workforce to follow in the footsteps of their parents, others are choosing vocational school to avoid mounting college debt. 

Over the past 30 years, blue-collar jobs have lost their reputation. Instead, they are often regarded as “in case you can’t make it to college” or “dirty work”. A fact that a lot of people don’t know about is that there are indeed plenty of “good” jobs in the blue-collar industry. The median income for workers without a bachelor’s degree in the US is $55,000

Many also seem to forget that, compared to someone studying at university, as a manual worker you earn money sooner. In countries with high tuition fees, the current generation at school is realizing they might want to choose vocational training over an expensive university career with horrend loans and therefore high debt (that even bears the risk of not being successful, as many drop out of university without finishing their degree). 

Connecting to a New Generation

Younger generations are connected to the internet like never before. For example, over 90% of potential employees take to their phones to look for a job. To connect to potential applicants you need to know via which channels you can reach them. Whereas LinkedIn might be the best platform to look for white-collar employees, Facebook offers you the chance to find candidates for your blue-collar workforce.

Gen Zers grew up playing on their parents’ smartphones and on average received their first cell phone at the age of 10. With this in mind, make the most of technology to connect to the new generation of blue-collar workers. Instead of posting notices in the breakroom, use a text alert service to communicate with employees. 

Furthermore, employers that avoid implementing new technologies are actually sending up red flags for the tech-savvy new generation of blue-collar workers.

Take-away: Use technology to connect to the next generation of workers.

Specific Training Needs

Compliance and safety training likely consume a large portion of your training budget and resources. Hence, those training sessions may already be in an e-learning format.

But how is skills training delivered?

For example, if you are introducing a new production line process, experienced blue-collar workers have the background to understand the inner workings of the current process. Their experience can be transferred to the new process.

New employees lack industry knowledge and therefore need additional background training before fully grasping the new ideas. 

Not convinced? Only half of US drivers can identify their car’s engine under the hood. Consequently, if your new employees will be tasked with assessing or repairing mechanical equipment, basic training of how motors work would be beneficial.

Take-away: Divide trainees into smaller groups based on skill level.

Practical Skills vs. Theoretical Knowledge

Would you trust a neurosurgeon with only theoretical knowledge and no practical skills?

Introduce practical skills to the new generation of blue-collar workers through trial days, apprenticeships, or intern programs. On-the-job learning is one of the most effective ways of training employees.

With this in mind, contact your local high schools and vocational schools. Host “trial” events onsite for potential employees to learn about your industry and jobs. Interested parties could further their skill base by joining your apprenticeship program.

Take-away: Offer trial days for potential workers to try and learn about the various jobs in your industry.


Gamification uses simulators to encourage training in a safe environment. Construction companies currently use this concept to train heavy equipment drivers. Likewise, logistics companies can use gamification to teach forklift operations.

In addition to simulators, gamification can include point scoring and competition with others. By using characteristics of game elements, blue-collar workers are able to “play” while learning. Keeping score or adding quizzes can motivate trainees to improve previous scores.

Over 42% of the US population plays video games regularly. Turn this love of gaming into a new way to connect with employees.

Take-away: Make training fun and impactful through gamification.

In order to attract, and retain, a new generation of blue-collar workers you must change the status quo. Create new training methods that reach and connect with a younger audience. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results!

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