New collar jobs present distinct challenges and opportunities

By Adam Curtis

“We’ve put the entire collective knowledge of all of mankind in the pockets of two billion people in less than 10 years. Now, what does that mean for our workforce?”

This is how Morgan Reed, president of ACT | The App Association began the SXSW panel “Future of Work: The New Collar Revolution.” Joined by Justin Hall, president of Bit Source, and Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants, the panel discussed the hurdles to training former blue collar, industrial workers for the new knowledge economy, and the benefits of actually making that transition.

Key takeaways from the panel

  • The stereotype is that miners work with pickaxes. But they work with complex machinery. These skills can translate to software development.
  • Domain expertise in blue collar markets can lead to new business. For example, because some software developers had a commercial drivers license (CDL) they better understood their transportation company client.
  • Finding talent for new collar jobs comes down to awareness and creating the belief among workers that, yes, you can be a part of this.
  • While college can be important, its not a panacea for the skills gap.
  • In just two years, 65 percent of all jobs will require some college training, but U.S. graduation rates will leave us five million workers behind the mark.
  • Companies still have an averse reaction to hiring developers who don’t have a college degree. More must be done to show the equal or better value new collar developers can provide.