Fewer young people than ever before are pursuing 'blue-collar' careers. Brexit aside, there is a frightening shortage of workers who have traditionally been the economic foundation of this country — be they builders, welders, plumbers, pipe fitters, miners or mechanics, for example. Yet the manufacturing industry is experiencing exciting and exponential change as technologies and entrepreneurship rapidly change the work place.

High employment figures are part of the reason but largely this is because of the stigma that is attached to these roles held by both young people and parents: A survey by Deloitte found that less than 3 in 10 parents would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing. The image of these jobs as being hard and ‘dirty’ often discourages people from applying.

In order to attract young people, who are part of Generation Z , to these jobs companies and HR professionals need to remove the stigma against manual labour. But how? 

The crux of the issue is changing people's perceptions. 

There are a few angles to leverage here...

-> Blue-collar industries have a unique advantage for hiring in today’s climate. Better pay and on-site training are two immediate examples. Whats more apprenticeships in this sector are more experience less of the volatility and extreme competition of the white-collar job/recruitment market.

-> University can be a great path for some people, but it’s also very expensive and does not guarantee a high-paying job. Today's apprenticeships offer the same, if not better, career options given the additional 'on the job' knowledge gained during the qualification. 

-> Dispelling myths about who 'does' these roles. Recruitment marketing campaigns MUST enable a mindset shift to a place where the ready comes to an understanding that people in work blue-collar jobs do so they want to, not because they have no other career options.

-> It almost goes without saying that partnering with trade schools and offering sponsored apprenticeship programs are prove methods for reaching your desired pool of candidates and at the same time remove the stereotypes through education.

-> Learn from the experts: In Germany, a country known for its incredible craftsmanship, working in the skilled trades is a revered career path. They support blue-collar work with highly regarded training apprenticeship programs. Young people gain skills and prestige at the same time.  I've yet to hear of an apprenticeship programme in the UK described as prestigious.... even those that are multi award winning.

-> Last, but not least by any means, bear in mind that Gen Z (your candidates today) are the digital generation. They grew up with smartphones and social media. They want to be using innovative technology in their work. They want to be proud of what they do and who they do it for. 

But this isn't a cookie cutter approach. Yes, these are the trends of this generation however it should all be set against the back drop of your  organisation and your culture. Every young person reading about your company must see and, crucially, believe there are opportunities to grow their skills and feel appreciated for who they are and their work. Then they be more likely to apply in the first place and, more than that, they will be less likely to go elsewhere. 

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Note:

The terms 'blue collar' and 'white collar' are not recognised by Gen Zs. 

Do no use them! 

"The 20th century saw workers classified by either a white or blue collar, then you could say the 21st century may commingle the colors until they turn a pleasing shade of pearl gray". 

“Gray-collar worker" or preferably “technical careerist" is more appropriate.