|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
For the millions of workers who assemble manufactured goods, service electronics equipment, build office buildings, load trucks, or perform thousands of other activities, a blue-collar worker supervisor is the boss. These supervisors ensure that workers, equipment, and materials are used properly and efficiently to maximize productivity. They are often responsible for very expensive and complex equipment or systems. Supervisors make sure machinery is set up correctly and schedule or perform repairs and maintenance work. Supervisors create work schedules, keep production and employee records, monitor employees and ensure that work is done correctly and on time. They organize the workers' activities and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that work continues uninterrupted. Supervisors also train new workers and ensure the existence of a safe working environment.
Blue-collar worker supervisors may have other titles, such as first-line supervisor or foreman/forewoman. In the textile industry, they may be referred to as second hands; on ships they may be called boatswains. In the construction industry, they can be referred to as superintendents, crew chiefs, or foremen/forewomen, depending upon the type and size of their employer. Toolpushers or gang pushers are the common terms used to describe blue-collar supervisors in the oil drilling business.
Regardless of industry setting or job title, a supervisor's primary responsibility is to ensure that the work gets done. The way supervisors accomplish this task, however, is changing in some organizations. In companies that have restructured their operations for maximum efficiency, supervisors use computers to schedule work flow, monitor the quality of their workers' output, keep track of materials used, update their inventory control system, and perform other supervisory tasks. New management philosophies emphasize fewer levels of management and greater employee power and decision making. In the past, supervisors used their power and authority to direct the efforts of their subordinates; increasingly, supervisors are assuming the role of a facilitator for groups of workers, aiding in group decision making and conflict resolution.
Blue-collar worker supervisors have many interpersonal tasks related to their job as well. They inform workers about company plans and policies; recommend good performers for wage increases, awards, or promotions; and deal with poor performers by outlining expectations, counseling workers in proper methods, issuing warnings, or recommending disciplinary action. They also meet on a regular basis with their managers, reporting any problems and discussing possible solutions. Supervisors also meet among themselves to discuss goals, company operations, and performance. In companies with labor unions, supervisors must follow all provisions of labor-management contracts.
Many blue-collar worker supervisors work in a shop environment. They may be on their feet much of the time overseeing the work of subordinates and may work near loud and dangerous machinery. Other supervisors, such as those in construction and oil exploration and production, may work outdoors and are subject to all kinds of weather conditions.
Supervisors may be on the job before other workers arrive and stay after they leave. Some supervisors work in plants that operate around the clock and may work any one of three shifts as well as on weekends and holidays. In some cases, supervisors work all three shifts on a rotating basis; in others, shift assignments are made on the basis of seniority.
Blue-collar worker supervisors held about 1.9 million jobs in 1994. Although salaried supervisors are found in almost all industries, 4 of every 10 worked in manufacturingsupervising the production of industrial machinery, motor vehicles, appliances, and thousands of other products. Other industries employing blue-collar worker supervisors included construction, wholesale and retail trade, public utilities, repair shops, transportation, and government. Employment is distributed in much the same way as the population, and jobs are located in all cities and towns.
When choosing supervisors, employers generally look for experience, job knowledge, organizational skills, and leadership qualities. Employers emphasize the ability to motivate employees, maintain high morale, and command respect. In addition, employers desire well rounded applicants who are able to deal with different situations and different types of people. Communication and interpersonal skills are extremely important attributes in this occupation.
Completion of high school is often the minimum educational requirement to become a blue-collar worker supervisor, but workers generally need training in human resources and management before they advance to these positions. Although many workers still rise through the ranks with high school diplomas, employers are increasingly hiring applicants with postsecondary technical degrees. In high-technology industries, such as aerospace and electronics, employers typically require a bachelor's degree or technical school training. Employers in the manufacturing sector generally prefer a background in engineering, mathematics, science, business administration, or industrial relations. Large companies usually offer better opportunities than smaller companies for promotion to blue-collar worker supervisor positions.
In most manufacturing companies, a degree in business or engineering combined with in-house training is needed to advance to department head or production manager. In the construction industry, supervisors increasingly need a degree in construction management or engineering, particularly if they expect to advance to project manager, operations manager, or general superintendent. Some use their skills and experience to start their own construction contracting firms. Supervisors in repair shops may open their own business.
No change is expected in the employment of blue-collar worker supervisors through the year 2005. Because the occupation is so large, however, many openings will arise from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
Job prospects vary by industry. In manufacturing, employment of supervisors is expected to decline slightly as the trend continues for supervisors to oversee more workers. This reflects the increasing use of computers to meet supervisory responsibilities such as scheduling, the effects of worker empowerment programs that relieve supervisors of some of the more time-consuming tasks, and corporate downsizing. In construction and most other nonmanufacturing industries, employment of blue-collar worker supervisors is expected to rise along with the employment of the workers they supervise.
Because of their skill and seniority, blue-collar worker supervisors often are protected from layoffs during a recession. However, some in the highly cyclical construction industry may be laid off when construction activity declines.
Median weekly earnings for blue-collar worker supervisors were about $610 in 1994. The middle 50 percent earned between $450 and $810. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $360, while the highest 10 percent earned over $1,080. Most supervisors earn significantly more than their subordinates. While most blue-collar workers are paid by the hour, the majority of supervisors receive an annual salary. Some supervisors receive extra pay when they work overtime. Typical benefits for these workers include health and life insurance, pension plans, paid vacation, and sick leave.
Other workers with supervisory duties include those who supervise professional, technical, sales, clerical, and service workers. Some of these are retail store or department managers, sales managers, clerical supervisors, bank officers, head tellers, hotel managers, postmasters, head cooks, head nurses, and surveyors.
For information on educational programs for blue-collar worker supervisors, contact:
American Management Association, 135 West 50th St., New York, NY 10020.
National Management Association, 2210 Arbor Blvd., Dayton, OH 45439.
American Institute of Constructors, 466 94th Ave. North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.
Enterprises, 1429 Colonial Blvd., Suite 203, Fort Myers, FL 33907.
|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|