Now hiring: ‘New-collar’ workers, no degree necessary

Personal finance

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The labor market may be cooling but there are opportunities ahead, especially for new-collar workers.

So called “new-collar” jobs typically require highly skilled workers and often come with salaries in the top half of the U.S. wage scale — but they don’t require a college degree.

The term was coined nearly a decade ago, by Ginni Rometty, former chief executive of IBM, to describe a slew of positions being created that demanded advanced skills but not necessarily higher education.

“New-collar jobs may not require a traditional college degree,” she wrote in 2016. “What matters most is that these employees — with jobs such as cloud computing technicians and services delivery specialists — have relevant skills, often obtained through vocational training.”

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Indeed, a four-year degree has been losing its luster. Rising college costs and ballooning student loan balances have caused more students to question the return on investment

As students look for a more direct link to the workforce, there’s a shift “toward shorter-term programs,” according to Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Federal data also shows that trade school students are more likely to be employed after school than their degree-seeking counterparts — and much more likely to work in a job related to their field of study.

What’s more, a growing number of companies, including many in tech, recently decided to drop degree requirements for middle-skill and higher-skill roles.

Where the new-collar positions are

To be sure, “there is still value in a four-year degree,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. However, technical training “is an on ramp in some areas like healthcare, engineering, software and technology.”

Even though those industries are also increasingly integrating artificial intelligence as a tool in the workplace, technically trained workers are particularly positioned to benefit.

Despite growing fears about job security, companies investing in AI are not seeing workers displaced. Instead, these companies are increasing their demand for workers with data analysis and IT skills, according to a recent study, co-authored by Columbia Business School professor Tania Babina.

“AI stands as the cutting-edge catalyst propelling skill evolution in our workplaces,” Babina wrote.

How to land one of today’s most in-demand jobs

Between continuing education courses, online classes, certification programs and bootcamps, there are more opportunities for young people just entering the workforce or older people looking to change careers to get up to speed on the latest technology.

Job seekers can take advantage of the wide range of training programs currently available to strengthen their candidacy, according to Barbara Safani, president of Career Solvers in New York.

“I am seeing a lot of people with college degrees going back and learning coding or something skill-specific as a way to re-enter the market,” Safani said. “Either they are not happy in their career or they are not that employable.”

Even without an undergraduate degree, the increasing popularity of coding classes and boot camps makes it possible to get a foot in the door, she said.

“The people that I’ve seen who have done this got jobs and they were placed fairly quickly,” she added.

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