LinkedIn is a valuable resource for job-seekers–as long as they’re looking for a certain type of job. Go to the “Jobs” section of the business social network and look at the available jobs in your network. You probably see some familiar names; in my case, jobs at Microsoft, Procter and Gamble, Dow Jones, Apple, Intel, Genentech, and other prominent companies pop up. But the jobs are all white-collar. You won’t find any welding or electrical gigs at Genentech–just calls for scientists, research fellows, project managers, and the like. You might, however, find them on WorkHands, a new job network for blue collar workers.
Patrick Cushing and James Dunbar have done their share of white collar work (in project management and management consulting, respectively). But they come from blue collar backgrounds, with close family members working as mechanics, welders, and other skilled jobs. “The people we grew up with, who we played Pop Warner and hockey with, they’re now plumbers,” says Cushing.
For years, the lack of blue collar work on platforms like LinkedIn has bothered Cushing and Dunbar. So they teamed up with three other co-founders to launch WorkHands, the self-proclaimed “meeting place for the American workers who build, maintain, fix, and haul; heroes who spend their days getting their hands dirty to make our country run.” The platform launches nationally today, following a stint at Tumml, an accelerator for urban startups.
Job-seekers sign into WorkHands just like they would with LinkedIn, but with a few twists: They’re asked to set up a profile showcasing their work (with pictures of their welding, electrical work, etc.), list their certifications, describe tools and machinery they know how to use, and fill out a past work history. Once all the information is uploaded, WorkHands turns it into an online profile–and spits out a version that can be used as a paper resume.
The site pulls in job listings from across the web, and local contractors can also post jobs directly. The posting feature is free for the rest of 2013, but contractors will have to pay at some point (the platform will always be free for workers). It could be a worthwhile investment, especially in cities that have strict local hiring requirements. In San Francisco, for example, contract positions have to be filled with 30% local residents–a challenge in a city with dwindling numbers of blue collar workers. “Contractors are having a tough time finding the workers,” says Cushing.
More than 500 workers have already tested out the beta version of the platform as part of a partnership with Laney College in Oakland, California. A number of students at the school have reportedly found machining jobs through WorkHands. Now the platform is expanding to work with other organizations, including CleanEdison, a nationwide technical training organization; and the California Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies, which represents community colleges in the state.
“Can the web start to serve this demographic’s needs? It’s been done in the white collar world,” says Cushing. “This is the backbone of the blue collar web, and just the start of what web can do for workers in the trades.”