What color is your collar? The idea that there are white-collar workers who keep their hands clean all day, and blue-collar workers who handle the hard physical work is an old one. But is this assumption really true? There are 3.9 million manufacturing and industrial employees across Canada. The traditional name for workers in the agriculture, construction, fishing, manufacturing, mining, and oil and gas industries is “blue-collar.” But you might be surprised to learn that blue-collar workers use technology just as much as their “white-collar” counterparts these days. That’s just one of the myths surrounding the Canadian industrial workforce. This article will dispel some of the myths associated with general labour and manufacturing jobs in Canada.

Let’s Debunk Myths About Blue-Collar Employees

Ten years ago, when you thought about a blue-collar job you probably assumed it meant general labour jobs. Wrong. The category has expanded across several categories and morphed into everything from light industrial jobs, manufacturing jobs, and general labour across the provinces. Building expert Mike Holmes says, “Despite stringent health and safety requirements and above-average pay, skilled trades have a reputation for being blue-collar jobs that demand heavy, dirty, physical labour that is best suited to students who lack the skills for white-collar jobs.” The average Canadian general labour job starts around $30,000 and goes up from there.

Per region, average general labour salaries look like this:

  • Alberta $ 35,100
  • British Columbia $ 35,091
  • Northwest Territories $146,250
  • Quebec $ 33,150
  • Sakatchewan $ 34,125
  • Yukon $146,250

What you might not realize is that a variety of job titles exist within the category known as general labour. This includes:

  • Assistant Manager
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Supervisor

This alone should bet you thinking about why IndustryWeek says the term “blue-collar” is out-of-date. They say, “Let’s change the term to ‘Industrial Artisans’ as the work requires a high level of skill.” Why? Because as one person interviewed for their article stated, “These are high-tech jobs in clean environments and we have to get that message out.”

The idea of collar colors to describe manual labor versus a cushy office job just doesn’t apply anymore. Historically speaking, the idea of blue-collar labour came from the blue uniforms many manufacturing or industry workers wore. Today, these same workers are highly skilled labourers who not only may wear a white shirt, but other professional attire. These are highly skilled, well-trained workers that you will find in manufacturing jobs across Canada. But the idea of a blue-collar job still comes with a stigma attached. One consultant interviewed for a Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) article said, “Blue-collar workers” is an archaic term. It hearkens to ‘dirty’ jobs of yesteryear…I think we should talk about ‘skilled tradesworkers’ or a similar term, because today’s blue-collar workers need more technical and technology skills’ than in years past.”

What other assumptions and even prejudices do this skilled workforce experience? Let’s debunk the myths surrounding general labour and the skilled trades in Canada.

Myth #1: “They are not really smart and that’s why can only do manual labour jobs”

When was the last time you had a conversation with a general labour worker? You may be surprised to learn that many general labours in manufacturing jobs today attended a two- or four-year college to earn their job.

Light industrial jobs even require the application of science and advanced math these days. Welders are trained to read sophisticated schematics and must understand sophisticated math concepts to do their job. Plumbers need measurements you probably didn’t pay attention to in high school and their problem-solving skills are spot-on. Carpenters and electricians have a sophisticated set of skills and certifications they must earn before working in their trades. There are Maritime Environmental Training programs that many people would consider “blue-collar” that have 26-certifications. There are dozens of general construction labour certifications to consider. Not to mention the Red Seal trades, which certify skilled workers to a national standard for everything from industrial mechanics to boilermakers and welders.

The truth is, while we may take them for granted, it is the skilled trades workers who do the hard work that makes this country run. There is no more important job; and it’s not cut out for the unintelligent or the uninspired. Mike Holmes says:

“Many skilled trades require technical skills, hands-on smarts, and many hours of training. Plus, programs today focus on developing skills for success like 3D technology, digital and diagnostic tools while also concentrating on soft skills, like critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and communication.”


Myth #2: “Blue-collar employees are easily replaceable”

Temp agencies in Ontario and around the country are struggling to find the general labour workers they need—so we can dispel this myth quickly. Today there are close to one million job openings across Canada. That’s up by 63% from 2020.

Job openings for general labour workers in the construction field are up by 158.4% this year. Light duty cleaning is up by 140.8%. Vacant jobs for general labour workers in retail increased by 86.5%. That only increases the value of skilled and general labour workers across the country. While temp agencies in Ontario and around the provinces are working hard to find the high-quality employees their clients need, the shortage has put more pressure on these employers to retain the existing staff they have.

There is no sign this labour shortage is going away, either. The Royal Bank of Canada just released a report showing there will be an additional 10,000-person shortage in 56 nationally recognized trades over the next five years, due to retirement.


Myth #3: “Blue-collar work is physically strenuous or dirty”

“Skilled trade have long held the stereo type of being a ‘blue-collar’ job with a strenuous amount of physical, heavy work. However, there are health and safety standards in place and the median income for these types of jobs can range from $80,000 to $100,000, and even more.”

Financial Post

A new term is making the rounds in general labour staffing circles called the “industrial athlete.” It’s true that some jobs in the category known as blue-collar will get your heart pumping and sweat flowing. There are certainly health benefits from getting out of a chair to do your job.

However, not all of these roles require a pair of greasy coveralls. Temp agencies in Ontario and around the provinces are looking to fill general labour staffing jobs that require everything from design and planning to project management. You know what happens when you “assume,” right? The reality is that there are more than 400 types of jobs in this category. You get to pick the one that’s right for you.

Despite the myth, it’s important to realize that general labour jobs actually require all of your skills, both cognitively and physically. In the same way that a star athlete uses their physical and mental prowess to win, general labour staffing jobs offer you an opportunity to use all of your senses and skills. Plus, for some of them, you can dump your gym membership.


Myth #4: “No room for growth”

Not only can you earn a great living in the skilled trades but the sky is the limit on your opportunity to advance. Tradespeople are required to update their certifications and as they grow more skills, there are senior titles to obtain or opportunities to supervise. There has literally never been a better time to sign up for light industrial jobs. While you may start on the ground in skilled trades, you can work your way up to senior level faster than you can imagine.

Take manufacturing jobs as an example. You may begin as an entry-level or apprentice. As you learn skills, many manufacturing companies allow you to test or seek certification that gives you a title change and an incremental salary bump. You may start your light industrial job as an apprentice or junior in the field. But with the labour shortage firmly entrenched, you will move up the ladder as quickly as you want to.

No matter your career path, skilled tradespeople have a career path that aims them toward steady, lucrative work, with clear milestones and the potential for retirement down the road.


Interested in Learning More about Typical Blue-Collar Jobs?

Now that we have your attention, we’d like to talk about some of the manufacturing jobs available in Ontario for you to consider. HCL Personnel Solutions Inc. staffs for general labour jobs, light industrial jobs, and manufacturing jobs in Ontario. We are the leading source for the skilled labour community for jobs. For employers, we offer a robust network of general labour job-seekers. It’s the perfect match between talent and employer.


If you’re looking to dive deeper into the categories of general labour jobs, light industrial, and manufacturing job in Ontario, check out some of the opportunities available right now:

  • Assemblers
  • Forklift drivers
  • General labour jobs
  • Fabricators
  • Light industrial jobs
  • Manufacturing jobs
  • Materials handlers
  • Packagers
  • Quality Inspectors
  • Welders

Browse open jobs or contact us directly.

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