What Blue-Collar Workers Want

EmployBridge, America’s largest industrial staffing firm, today released the results of its annual employee opinion survey, which gauges preferences and expectations among U.S. hourly workers. Soliciting 18,505 responses from workers representing the manufacturing and logistics industries across 45 states, “Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker” is believed to be the largest survey ever conducted on the hourly-worker population.

Current strong economic conditions are increasing the demand for blue-collar workers. For the first time in over a decade there are more open jobs than available workers, creating increased competition for low-wage earners who now have their choice of employers. What has traditionally been perceived as a replaceable, low-value segment of the workforce is today more empowered than ever and willing to change employers if their needs are not met.

The survey shows when looking for a new job, the initial pay ratejob security and benefits are the most important factors for hourly workers. But employees accept jobs and remain in jobs for different reasons. The top three factors for remaining in an existing job were a great work cultureschedule and the ability to learn new skills.

“For a significant number of blue-collar workers, company culture and the opportunity to learn new skills are top factors in remaining in a job,” says EmployBridge CEO Tom Bickes. “Employers should be mindful of these incentives, or risk losing good workers.”

Survey results show 26 percent of employed hourly workers were actively pursuing new jobs, and an additional 30 percent were willing to consider a new job if an opportunity presented itself.

The high demand for hourly workers is causing wages to rise. National average pay rates for our logistics and manufacturing workers have increased from $12.45 in 2017 to $13.87 in 2019. Of course, high cost areas around the country command even higher wages.

Innovative shift scheduling, in addition to increased pay (commonly known as shift differentials), may help staff positions on second and third shifts. Most workers surveyed (54 percent) prefer a reliable, five-day-a-week, first shift schedule. However, an increase of $1.30 per hour would motivate 72 percent of respondents working first shift to work a second- or third-shift job. The survey also revealed that only 14 percent of the workforce prefers 12-hour shifts, which are common in the supply chain industry.

Despite the strong economy, there are currently 7.3 million unfilled jobs in America, and a 50-year-low labor participation rate. One reason for the low participation rate may be that while the data show clear pathways for growth among blue-collar workers, those who don’t adapt to the rapidly changing industrial landscape—largely driven by new technology—risk falling behind.

In what is likely a direct response to the rapid technological changes, 95 percent of survey respondents indicated they’d invest regular personal time to learn a new skill; of those, nearly a third were willing to invest at least five hours of personal time a week.

“The survey shows that Americans are hungry for opportunities for skills-building, so they don’t wake up one day and feel like their talents are irrelevant,” says EmployBridge Senior Vice President Brian Devine. “The skills gap is projected to keep widening, and trillions of dollars in economic impact hang in the balance.”

Survey results also revealed 90 percent of workers were interested in apprenticeships, and 38 percent were “extremely interested.”

For the full survey results and additional information, visit www.employbridge.com/blue-collar-survey.

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