Step aside, blue collar. And white collar, pink collar and green collar.
There’s a new collar in town.
“New collar” jobs are those that require advanced skills but not necessarily advanced degrees, especially in emerging high-tech fields like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, electric vehicles and robotics.
There are real fears that workers will lose jobs to technology, especially artificial intelligence, in the coming years. But “new collar” optimists (including those at companies looking to hire) frame things in a more positive light: There are also real opportunities ahead for skilled workers who know how to handle machines.
“Somebody has to program, monitor and maintain those robots,” said Sarah Boisvert, the founder of the New Collar Network, a national work force training program based in New Mexico.
Even if millions of high-tech jobs are created in the coming years, the disruption to workers who lose jobs may be significant. For the many Americans without four-year college degrees — more than half of adults, according to census data — the new job market will require training.
Ginni Rometty, a former chief executive of IBM, is credited with coining “new collar” in 2016. At the time, she said, IBM was having trouble filling cybersecurity jobs, partly because outdated criteria required that candidates have college degrees.
“Because we overcredentialed for those cyber jobs, we were overlooking an entire pool of qualified, available candidates,” she wrote in an email. “Unless millions of people are trained in the skills employers need now,” she added, “they risk being unemployed even as millions of good-paying jobs go unfilled.”
Many employers seem to have gotten the message. Hiring managers are increasingly using skills-based filters on LinkedIn to find candidates, a LinkedIn spokeswoman said, adding that 155 million of the platform’s more than 930 million users are workers without four-year degrees.
“Having a pithy term that helps companies get energized about doing something innovative is helpful,” said Colleen Ammerman, the director of the Race, Gender and Equity Initiative at Harvard Business School. She pointed to the electric vehicles industry as an example that will require many skilled workers. (In the past, these may have been hailed as “green collar” jobs.)
In 2017, 2019 and 2021, the House introduced — but didn’t pass — versions of the New Collar Jobs Act, which aimed to promote jobs and training in fields like cybersecurity.
“It’s great there are alternative models to four-year college,” said Christopher M. Cox, a researcher who has written about the new collar economy. But he added that “new collar” might also be a clever term to downplay workers’ anxieties, by framing the changing labor market and tech companies’ ventures as more utopia, less “The Terminator.”