Would you trade a career in a cubicle for a job with a hammer and screwdriver?

In the current economic downturn, some may consider making such a switch, if just to bring in money while they’re unemployed. But others are rediscovering the value of blue collar jobs, such as skilled tradespeople, laborers, and machine operators.

Blue-collar work never died; it merely lost its loftier status after the country’s shift from a post-World War II industrial-based economy to the current knowledge-based economy. The increased emphasis on college education largely left blue-collar jobs to those who didn’t attain college degrees.

The current recession hasn’t been very kind to the U.S. workforce, especially those without college degrees. Government statistics say the jobless rate for those without a college educationis double that of workers with some college experience or associate degrees. The gap is even wider when compared with workers who have bachelors’ or advanced degrees.

But as many more Americans have opted to attend and graduate from college before seeking jobs in the knowledge-based economy, there is a question that has mostly gone unasked over the last 20 or 30 years: Who will do this work?

According to Manpower, Inc., that question is tough to answer. A recent survey by the global human resources consultancy found that four of the 10 hardest-to-fill jobs in the U.S. are blue collar: skilled trades, laborers, technicians, and machinists/machine operators.

So, while more parents have steered their kids toward college campuses, there’s a dwindling pool of skilled people who can help build an addition to your house or fix a business’s air-conditioning system.

But, as this article from Fortune Magazine notes, that may be changing, especially as we move toward the development of green jobs. That shift can give people with those blue-collar skills a distinct advantage when someone needs to install solar panels or repair a hybrid vehicle’s power train. As Heather Honea, a professor at San Diego State University, notes in the Fortune piece: “The transition from blue collar jobs to green collar jobs will be far easier than going from white collar to green collar.”

If you’re in a white-collar job, would you consider trading it in for blue-collar work, or maybe green? Share your views with us.


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