How to make blue collar work appeal to younger generations


Blue collar work has an image problem. In a recent report by Jobber, 74 percent of Gen Z respondents said there is a negative stigma attached to attending a vocational school over getting a four-year degree, with 79 percent of those surveyed saying their parents want them to pursue a four-year degree as well. I graduated high school more than a decade ago, and this was also a problem then, with teachers and counselors telling all students they needed to attend traditional universities to make a decent living. Luckily, my father was a millwright, so I knew firsthand how lucrative blue-collar work could be. We need to do for Gen Z what my father did for me and show them how great a blue-collar job — especially in a field like manufacturing— can be. I propose three things you can do to get those extra applicants:

Go directly to your local schools

This could include doing job fairs for students about to graduate. In the age of AI, 56 percent of young adults believe blue-collar work such as manufacturing offers more job security than white-collar work. Use that to your advantage and offer paid, on-the-job training for entry level or associate level positions. Similarly, that same Jobber report notes high school students don’t fully understand the earning potential of a blue-collar job. It is imperative you explain to them how getting paid, on-the-job training at your company puts them in a much better financial position than taking on debt to go to college. Let them know the money they save from not having college debt could be put toward renting a nice place, buying a home, buying a new car, or it can be set aside in a retirement fund where it will earn interest. An American Psychology Association survey found “18-34 and 35-44-year-olds were more likely than those 65 and older to report they feel “consumed” by their worries about money (67 percent and 63 percent vs. 13 percent, respectively).” Money — or lack thereof — is a huge mental burden your job opening could ease or lift altogether for Gen Z.

High school students don’t fully understand the earning potential of a blue-collar job. (Courtesy: Adobe Stock)

Hit them where their attention is

Right now, this means videos, usually shortform, for apps such as Instagram and Tik Tok. It can be something as simple as showing how your machines work or you could talk about the average pay for someone in a position you have open at your company. The main point is any video will need to be short and attention grabbing. High-quality professional video is not a necessity; anyone with a camera phone will do the trick.

Offer advancement opportunities and continued training

Once your employees have shown they have the aptitude needed to do what you hired them for, start offering them more ways to obtain other skills, earn promotions, and the like. One of the easiest ways to do this is promoting from within your organization instead of hiring from outside. Extra training is also important. However, it can be expensive to develop and implement. AGMA can help with that. We offer numerous courses, both in-person and online, as well as custom courses where we send our instructors to your facility. You can learn more at

The AGMA Foundation has a resource for companies called the Get Into Gears Toolkit ( It’s designed to help gear manufacturers attract new employees. It is available for free, and includes things such as print ads, social ads, brochures, email banners, video, PowerPoint presentations, and posters.

Upcoming Event

2024 Strategic Networking & Leadership Forum
May 1-3 | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The AGMA SNL Forum is a group that brings together AGMA members from across the gear industry. The goal of the SNL Forum is to provide a dynamic, educational, and collaborative event to help participants grow, both within the industry and the association. The SNL Forum offers robust, peer-focused networking opportunities to mid-level managers and next-generation executives in the gear industry, giving attendees new tools to use in a rapidly changing industry and economy. The event features educational opportunities in business training, thorough exposure to both leadership and emerging technology resources, and hands-on learning with a tour of a future-focused industry facility.

Upcoming Webinars

What the Bearing and Gear Industries Need to Know about New Government Contracting Requirements
April 18 | 1 p.m. ET | Webinar

The start of 2024 marked many important changes to the laws governing companies that supply goods and services to the U.S. government — an especially important area for companies in the bearing and gear industry that supply products to federal transportation and defense programs. In this program, we will highlight several of these key changes, including new cybersecurity requirements, restrictions on sourcing, and audit and reporting obligations that can often make-or-break project costs and tell you what you need to know to successfully navigate these challenges.

Asia-Pacific Security Policy and What Future Developments in the Region Mean for Bearing and Gear Companies
May 16 | 1 p.m. ET | Webinar

Defense budgets and investments in security arrangements are accelerating as tensions rise across the Asia-Pacific region from Taiwan to the South China Sea to the Pacific Islands and beyond. In this webinar, we analyze what these developments mean for the bearing and gear industries and do a deep dive into the defense spending plans of the United States, Japan, and other allies and partners in the region for the near to medium term.

Upcoming Education

Integration and Trade-offs in Gear and Bearing Systems
April 23-24 | Ann Arbor, Michigan

The purpose of this class will be to cover the concurrent design and analyses of gears and bearings in integrated systems such as gearboxes, transmissions, and electric motor drives, so as to allow for good integration and faster optimization of the overall system.

This will help gear engineers and suppliers better determine the trade-offs with the bearings, help bearing engineers and suppliers similarly with the gears, and system engineers better understand both.

The examples covered are generic but should be useful both within and across industries that use these components and systems.

New course: EV Automotive Transmission System Design
April 23-25 | Ann Arbor, Michigan

This course will cover all aspects of gearbox concept, development, design, and through the initial stages of analysis as related to product requirements. We will review all the most common EV transaxle architectures, power flow and layout, and the “whys” of packaging as such. Independent of the architecture and/or layout, there are many similarities in the functional and operational requirements of an EV transaxle gearbox. We will work through all of those and develop a workable set of requirements that will then be used as the design basis. From a high-level point of view the “big” difference between transaxles for EVs (electric vehicles) and transmissions designed for more traditional manual transmissions (MTs) and/or automatic transmissions (ATs) is the lack of the “noisy” internal combustion engine or ICE motor. An internal combustion engine driving into a typical gearbox provides a great deal of NVH masking. Thus, we obviously need to design quieter gearboxes to reduce the potential of observed gearbox NVH, now potentially unmasked by the lack of the ICE signature and magnitude. However, and moreover, the signature from an ICE is much different than from the electric motor. The new input signature, frequency, and magnitude cause a shift to higher frequencies and generally lower magnitudes of vibrational energies. That in turn becomes a more significant consideration in terms of gear design and application. We will discuss this and more throughout the course.

For a full list of the 2024 courses, go to:

Calendar of Events

April 16-19 — Detailed Gear Design — Alexandria, Virginia

April 18 — What the Bearing & Gear Industries Need to Know about New Government Contracting RequirementsWebinar

April 18 — Aerospace Committee — WebEx

April 22-26 — Worm Gear Committee — Paris, France

April 23-24 — Integration and Trade-offs in Gear and Bearing Systems — Ann Arbor, Michigan

April 23-25 — EV Automotive Transmission System Design — Ann Arbor, Michigan

May 1-3 — 2024 Strategic Networking and Leadership Forum — Milwaukee, Wisconsin

May 7-9 — Gear Manufacturing & Inspection -— Wilmington, Delaware

May 14 — High Speed Enclosed Drives Committee — Webex

May 16 — Analytical Gear Chart Interpretation — Live Online

May 16 — Asia-Pacific Security Policy and What Future Developments in the Region Mean for Bearing and Gear Companies — Webinar

May 21-23 — Gear Failure Analysis — Chicago, Illinois

June 4-6 — Gearbox Systems Design — Clearwater Beach, Florida

June 10 — LIFT – Emerging Technology Summit — Detroit, Michigan