‘New Collar’ Economy

Today’s 21st-century knowledge and technology-based economy demands skill development and credentials beyond the high school level. All of the literature seems to suggest that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the fastest growing occupations over the next decade will require some form of postsecondary credential (now more than ever) to penetrate those sectors of the job market that offer secure employment and wages sufficient to support a family. Historically, we have defined job types as falling into one of two categories: blue collar and white collar. However, the new knowledge-based economy has caused the lines to blur between blue and white collar jobs. According to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, leaders should not think in terms or white collar or blue collar jobs, but to broadly consider future unfilled positions as “new collar” jobs (i.e., jobs that do not require a traditional 4-year college degree). I believe what matters most is that employees have relevant skills, often obtained through training at a local two-year community college. In fact, nearly 70% of new collar jobs will require some form of postsecondary credential (e.g., certificate, certification, associate degree or higher) but not necessarily a traditional four-year degree. To help move our state forward and in alignment with other states across the country, I believe that our community and technical colleges must be seen as the hub of West Virginia’s growth. The vision of the future needs to recognize how fundamental the community and technical colleges are to the state’s overall social and economic mobility.

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