I have seen and experienced it the opposite, where the Mechanical engineer was used to do these tasks. Operate, program and maintenance, why because it was easier, efficient compared to a season full-time operator, by no means. worthwhile to the company. Yes, how, in many ways, the engineer is salaried, don't think for one second the engineer works out his take home pay backwards to see how much he makes hourly with overtime. Its can be disappointing,
The engineer is spread thin in all ways, mentally and physically, just like as the OP would call it blue collar would be doing.
Its very interesting at first, then you burn out, and begin making mistakes due to fatigue, burnout, overwhelming workload. All the training in the world will not help unless the training includes a class that teaches you to stand up and say no. Especially when the company trained you to do all the tasks, they may not be all that willing to hire more people.
You have to look at it the long term. And you bring in people in a controlled way. And basically cross train
ps my spell check is not working properly, so bear with me.