Blue-Collar Millennials on the Rise

Brendan Gill  | 

Have you figured out what you want to be when you grow up? If it’s a solar photovoltaic installer or a wind turbine technician, you’re in luck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these two trades top the list of fastest-growing occupations, with available jobs increasing by about 100% between 2016 and 2026. In fact, demand for blue-collar jobs is exploding thanks to a perfect storm of demographic, social and market forces including a wave of Baby Boomer retirements, a culture that pushes high school graduates to college instead of the trades, and a post-2008 building boom.

Why should you care? Are we suggesting marketers throw in the towel in favor of a hammer and hardhat? Of course not. But HR execs tasked with recruiting millennials to fill the growing number of blue-collar vacancies have some insights into what engages this rising subset that apply more broadly to the entire demographic. Here are a few that were recently featured in Forbes.

Help Them Find the Road Less Taken
Most millennials think of themselves as entrepreneurs, or at least innovators. And while the numbers don’t always give credence to that belief (different studies tell different stories about the rate of entrepreneurship among millennials), that doesn’t really matter. What’s important, recruiters say, is appealing to that outside-the-box ideology in order to forge a connection and, ultimately, interest them in your offering—whether that’s a job or your company’s products and services.

Most blue-collar millennials grew up during the Great Recession watching their parents get laid off or seeing their peers graduate into mountains of college debt, and are losing trust in traditional institutions and career paths. And a whopping 84% of them don’t trust traditional advertising either. For marketers this means forging a new path to this group that entertains and informs in equal measure. A YouTube channel, vlog series or partnership with an influencer will resonate more emphatically than standard print or TV ads.

Understand Their Desire for Authenticity and Responsibility
Millennials choosing blue-collar careers are understandably wary of corporate America and the notion that it always puts profits before people and the planet. Not every corporation operates that way, of course, but those that do have engendered a sense of skepticism about corporate motives and many millennials want to be assured that the companies they do business with have their best interests and those of others in mind. Nearly two-thirds of millennials are worried about the state of the world and feel compelled to help make a difference. As a result, marketers trying to tap into millennials’ $200 billion buying power would do well to communicate its social responsibility efforts, support of altruistic causes and philanthropy and do it transparently and authentically to engender the trust required to engage with all millennials, not just those pursuing blue-collar work.

Tailor Don’t Typecast
Millennials have been branded as entitled, narcissistic, unambitious and other unflattering terms and many marketers have bought into that stereotype. While it’s natural for our human brains to try to generalize incoming information in the name of efficiency, marketers need to work against that instinct and develop a more nuanced understanding of the many distinct groups comprising millennials and tailor their messages accordingly. No one like mass marketing, but millennials are especially offended by one-size-fits-all approaches and messages. This puts the onus on marketers to better understand the many niches that make up the demographic—like the blue collar group—and work to understand the messages, products and services that will resonate with them.

It’s time to drop the easy, unskillful approaches to millennial marketing that many brands have relied on to date and develop a better understanding of specific groups to get a better sense of the whole.

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