The world around us is changing. Every day we see new technologies, automation and artificial intelligence influencing the economy, and businesses have to adapt to keep pace. With this evolution, we see the workforce changing too. And in late 2017, we began to see the rise of the “new collar” worker.
What is a new collar worker?
We’ve all heard the terms blue-collar job or white-collar job. Today, a new classification of worker is emerging that combines professional knowledge with technical skills. The need is becoming so great that last year, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty coined the term “new collar” worker to describe a role that is between a professional career and a skilled trade. These workers have technical skills and knowledge rooted in higher education. The roles they fill are in areas like cybersecurity, data science and artificial intelligence, but some roles have yet to be created. It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergartners will have job titles that do not exist today. All told, a big shift is coming and our young people need to be ready to leave high school career and college ready.
Macomb County is fueling the talent pipeline
To ready our region for this shift and fuel the talent pipeline, Macomb County is engaging directly with businesses and the next generation of our workforce. We work one-on-one with area employers to connect them to resources and learn about their talent needs. We also collaborate with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose students to career possibilities and point them to educational pathways that lead to meaningful employment. This work includes:
- The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 6,500 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
- The Department has also partnered with Romeo Community Schools as they work towards becoming Michigan’s first Ford Next Generation Learning community. The newly established Academies of Romeo will enable students to choose a thematic course of study – such as engineering, health care or information technology – and learn in a relevant, hands-on environment. Students learn math, science, English and social studies within the theme they choose.
- Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
- The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.
- MiCareerQuest Southeast – Michigan Works! offices from across the region host an event for 10,000 students at the Novi Suburban Showplace. This event provides hands-on activities related to career exploration in four quadrants: construction, information technology, advanced manufacturing and health sciences. Involved employers will provide hands-on experiences and sponsorship.
Those are just a few examples of the many programs and partnerships Macomb County is pursuing to fuel our talent pipeline and prepare the next generation workforce for new collar work. Through these efforts, we hope to ensure economic stability in our region for many years to come. But ultimately, our goal is to give our young people the tools they need to succeed and connect their passion with opportunity.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.