Construction workers discuss planAre you ready to work but not sure an office job is right for you? Think outside the office and learn more about work in blue-collar industries that offer wage growth and job satisfaction. We explore what non-office work can entail and why you may want to consider it as you pursue financial independence through work.

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Think Outside the Office: Discovering Blue-Collar Occupations

Sep 12, 2019

Construction workers discussing a planWhat kind of work interests you? Do you like building things or fixing machinery? Do you enjoy helping people or would you rather work with animals? Would you prefer to work indoors or outdoors? Do you have a hobby that you'd like to pursue as a job?

These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself to identify the type of career path that makes the most sense for you. We often think first about applying for so-called "office" jobs, but there are thousands of non-office job opportunities that you might want to consider. These jobs are sometimes called "blue-collar" occupations.

What are blue-collar occupations?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, blue-collar jobs include "precision production, craft, and repair occupations; machine operators and inspectors; transportation and moving occupations; handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers; and service occupations." Typically, these opportunities don't require a college degree, but they can require special training or certification and licensing.

These occupations are divided into "unskilled" and "skilled" labor categories, referring to the level of education and training required by the position. "Unskilled" labor refers to jobs that require a high school diploma or could also be filled by an individual who learns job-specific skills. "Skilled" labor requires additional skills and education often involving specialized training.

"Unskilled" labor doesn't mean that you won't need to learn specific tasks and skills to perform the job. Instead, "unskilled" labor refers to work where employers don't require a college degree when looking for the right job candidate. For this type of work, employers are looking for people who have job-specific skills that were learned at past jobs or for people who can learn these skills while working.

Increased use of technology and automated processes in non-office occupations mean that these jobs don't necessarily involve manual labor. You may need to learn some job-specific skills and knowledge, but you can often learn them through on-the-job training, apprenticeships or job-related supports. With the availability of automated technologies, adaptive equipment and reasonable accommodations in the workplace, you may find that there are now more non-office positions for job seekers with disabilities.

Why consider non-office work

Recent reports have shown that workers in non-office and blue-collar fields are more likely to experience wage growth and job satisfaction, and earnings are often comparable to many office jobs.

Restoration: Marty's Story

After losing his arm to cancer, Marty was determined to keep moving forward with his career.

Once a self-employed contractor and carpenter, who built homes, Marty was looking for ways to use his skills and find fulfilment through work again.

With the support of the Ticket to Work program, Marty was able to return to a career that aligned with his love of construction. He is now a Lead Estimator and Project Manager for a restoration company, where he manages multiple building and restoration projects.

Ticket to Work helped Marty redefine and achieve his work goals. You too can receive support to help you on your employment journey.

If you're looking for career opportunities outside of an office setting that fit your skills and interests, you have many options in a variety of industries. For example, while some positions require vocational school attendance or additional education, many employers offer internships, apprenticeships or on-the-job training that can lead to careers in high-paying jobs. That means you can start earning while you're learning.

Remember reasonable accommodations can enable workers with disabilities to succeed in these careers. For example, an employer may adjust an employee's work schedule to accommodate the employee's needs or install a ramp for access and mobility. Accessible and assistive technologies enable workers to flourish in all types of jobs. If you're interested in learning more, you can get help requesting accommodations.

About Ticket to Work

Whether you're returning to work or looking for work for the first time, you can receive support for your employment journey. Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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