While the labor market may be experiencing a cooling trend, a silver lining emerges for new-collar workers who are poised for promising opportunities. Coined nearly a decade ago by Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM, the term “new-collar” refers to positions demanding advanced skills but not necessarily a college degree, offering lucrative salaries in the top half of the U.S. wage scale.

In 2016, Rometty emphasized the importance of relevant skills over a traditional college degree, stating, “New-collar jobs may not require a traditional college degree. 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.” The appeal of a four-year degree has waned in recent years due to rising college costs and increased student loan burdens, prompting a reevaluation of the return on investment.

As students seek a more direct pathway to the workforce, a shift towards shorter-term programs is evident, according to Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Federal data supports the advantage of trade school students, who are not only more likely to secure employment after school but also to work in a field related to their studies.

Tech companies, among others, are increasingly abandoning degree requirements for middle and higher-skill roles, acknowledging the value of technical training. While a four-year degree still holds value, especially in certain fields, technical training is gaining prominence, particularly in industries like health care, engineering, software, and technology.

Despite concerns about job security amid the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace, technically trained workers are well-positioned to benefit. A recent study, co-authored by Columbia Business School professor Tania Babina, highlights that companies investing in AI are not displacing workers but are instead increasing their demand for individuals with data analysis and IT skills.

Various training avenues, including continuing education courses, online classes, certification programs, and boot camps, offer opportunities for individuals entering the workforce or seeking a career change to stay abreast of the latest technology. Job seekers, even those without a traditional undergraduate degree, can leverage coding classes and boot camps to enhance their skill sets, providing a viable pathway to employment in a rapidly evolving job market.

Barbara Safani, President of Career Solvers in New York, notes that individuals with college degrees are increasingly pursuing skill-specific learning, such as coding, to improve their employability or shift careers. The popularity of coding classes and boot camps facilitates a quicker entry into the job market for those who embrace these opportunities.

By Impact Lab