Three blue-collar jobs are among the 20 fastest-growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): solar photovoltaic installers, wind turbine service technicians and bicycle repairers. The BLS projects the following growth rates in job openings for these positions between 2016 and 2026:
- 105 percent for solar photovoltaic installers, who reportedly earned a median 2017 salary of nearly $40,000 a year.
- A 96 percent increase for wind turbine service technicians, who in 2017 earned a median salary of nearly $54,000.
- A 29 percent increase for bicycle repairers, who in 2017 earned median annual pay of $28,390.
"I feel that the last year or two have been the first time that we had the opportunity to change the narrative around blue-collar jobs," says Mason Bishop, principal at WorkED Consulting, which provides workforce development and higher education consulting from Burke, Va. "People are questioning the return on investment of a four-year college education. People who are gaining technical skills are getting $50,000 to $70,000—or more—while those with student [college] debt from liberal arts majors are unemployed or underemployed. We need to continue a robust debate and discussion around this issue."
Some experts think computer programming will become a blue-collar job in the future. Companies always need programmers, and these individuals don't have to earn an expensive four-year computer science degree to acquire these skills; they can attend a community college. In a 2017 article for Wired magazine, writer Clive Thompson described a future where schools would "introduce more code at the vocational level in high school. Midcareer folks would attend intense months-long programs like Dev Bootcamp. There'd be less focus on the wunderkinds and more on the proletariat."
For more on the demand for blue-collar workers, see How to Survive the Blue-Collar Drought from SHRM's All Things Work.