Shut up, blue-collar workers and white-collar workers, here are the “new collar workers”.

It’s a neologism, let’s start with a definition.

COL NEW [kɔl nuvɔ] n. mr. and adj. : Employee with specialized skills, but not necessarily a college degree, of increasing value in emerging high-tech areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, electric vehicles and robotics.

Many workers fear being replaced by artificial intelligence and other machines in the coming years. But new workers see the future more favorably: There are real opportunities for skilled workers who understand machines.

“Someone has to program, monitor and maintain these robots,” says Sarah Boisvert, founder of the New Collar Network, a national workforce training program based in New Mexico.

Even if millions of tech jobs are created, displaced workers will experience great disruption. For the many Americans who do not have a bachelor’s degree – more than half of adults, according to the census – they will have to re-qualify.

It is to Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM in 2016, that we owe the term “new collar”. At the time, IBM was having trouble filling cybersecurity positions, in part because of outdated criteria requiring a college degree.

“Because we had overqualified these cyber jobs, we were neglecting a whole pool of qualified and available candidates,” she says. If millions of people are not trained now in the skills employers require, unemployment will threaten them while millions of well-paying jobs go unfilled. »

Many employers seem to have understood: recruiters are increasingly using skills criteria on LinkedIn to find candidates, explains a LinkedIn spokesperson, adding that 155 million of its 930 million users do not have a baccalaureate.

“Having a clear term like ‘new collar’ helps businesses take action and innovate,” says Colleen Ammerman of Harvard Business School. She gives the example of automobile electrification, which requires many qualified workers.

In 2017, 2019 and 2021, Congress considered – but did not pass – versions of the New Collar Jobs Act, intended to promote employment and training in areas like cybersecurity.

“It’s good that there are other models than the baccalaureate,” says Christopher Cox, a researcher who has written on the economics of new collars. But he adds that this term could also be a subterfuge to appease workers by presenting them in a radiant light the evolution of the labor market and the projects of tech firms… and not as the “Terminator” of their jobs.