Employers are looking beyond college degrees when assessing job candidates and focusing more on the knowledge and expertise an individual can bring to their company. As a result, workers are being asked to prove their worth with more than just a college education. Many changes are driving the move away from requiring a college degree, including demographic changes, economic fallout from the post-pandemic hiring spree, and a drive to improve equity and diversity among large companies.
Demographic & Societal Changes
Approximately 12% of the world’s 8 billion people are over the age of 60 years. By 2050, this number is expected to nearly double to 22%, according to the World Health Organization. Though a larger share of 60-year-olds will likely continue working than in previous generations, the concern is the falling supply of young workers. Due to lower birthrates worldwide (mostly in developed areas of North America, Europe, and North East Asia), companies will have no choice but to relax job requirements to meet their hiring demands. In addition, many large companies are increasing efforts to hire more workers from low-and moderate-income communities, such as Bank of America and others are finding ways to reach capable workers who have not been able to attend a university. In December 2020, the Business Roundtable, which consists of CEOs of many of America’s largest companies, announced a multi-year plan to emphasize the value of skills and not just educational degrees, to improve equity, diversity, and workforce culture.
During the second half of 2022, white-collar workers have been among the first and hardest hit by recent layoffs at large U.S. companies, a departure from the usual pattern where blue-collar and hourly workers are first to laid off during economic downturns. The white-collar layoffs have occurred by an overhiring of workers (mainly workers in the tech industry) during the pandemic and subsequent rebalancing of tech firms’ workforce numbers. In addition, most central bankers worldwide have increased their interest rates, leading many economists to predict an economic slowdown or recession will occur in the next 12 months. It has been 20 years since the tech sector has seen as many layoffs as they have this year.
Alternatives to College
There have always been alternative paths for individuals who have not attended a four-year university. In fact, in America, approximately 70 million people in the workforce do not possess a four-year degree. Individuals can attend community college, join the military, join a workforce apprenticeship training program, or other publicly funded programs designed to train and skill-up young workers.
Many companies are starting to reach out to community colleges as a source of potential new hires. Firms such as Dell Technologies and Bank of America are expanding their definition of university recruitment to include hiring from these locally supported schools. The military has long been a source of training and skill development for young Americans. Many enlistees learn technical skills and gain leadership development that is highly sought after by companies in the private sector. Most enlistees are U.S. citizens, but non-U.S. citizens may enlist as well. The requirements are:
- Have a permanent resident card, also known as a Green Card
- Currently, live in the U.S.
- Speak, read, and write English fluently
For more information, please see the U.S. government website, https://www.usa.gov/join-military
There are now several different learning paths offered through technology-driven platforms. Coursera and Udemy offer certifications in a variety of fields, from business to science to coding. Grow with Google provides free courses and certification programs for individuals who wish to learn digital skills such as Project Management, Digital Marketing & E-commerce and Data Analytics. YouTube also offers a vast library of educational videos and tutorials on any subject imaginable. Thus, individuals no longer have to feel limited by their education status as there is much potential out there to gain knowledge outside of university classrooms.
How to Demonstrate Your Skills
The world has gone social. Ever since the start of Friendster in 2002 and MySpace and Second Life in 2003, people have been eager to share their interests and skills with others, not only in their circle of close friends but with people worldwide. The expanded rise of social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, WeChat, and now TikTok have further increased the number of people participating and sharing their lives with the online community.
Like with any technology, social media can be helpful, expanding one’s network and learning about different interests, as well as harmful, with online hate groups that promote attacks against minority groups, rise in conspiracy theories, and fake news. For workers with or without a college degree, social media is critical for promoting one’s skills, experience, and interests.
LinkedIn is probably the best social media platform for workers to provide their professional background and interests. However, it’s best not to ignore other platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and even TikTok to showcase your ability, whether it is a creative ability such as dance, graphic design, or something more analytical like computer programming or even accounting. Remember that company recruiters actively search a job candidate’s social media profiles when making hiring decisions. Many will reject a candidate if a social media account includes harmful content such as illegal behavior, intolerant comments, and posts about prior employers.
A good idea to keep in mind is to ask yourself, “Is this a comment or image I could share with my mother?”. That simple self-directed question will guide most people from posting hurtful and harmful comments as it is not always beneficial personally but not acceptable professionally. Work-life and personal- life is merging into one. Though it may not be fair or proper, companies can choose not to hire based on a social media comment; even one posted a decade ago.
Due to the global pandemic, increase in diversity awareness, and demographic changes, companies realize that they need to shift how they think about recruiting workers. Companies will increase their talent pool by reducing the requirement for a college degree for only the most necessary positions.
Although a college education was a clear path to upward mobility and success in the past, it is no longer the case. There are other ways to gain the skills necessary to succeed in today’s work environment. As higher education costs and student debt burdens are becoming more and more untenable to a new generation of workers, companies are creating their own platforms to train workers. However, it is up to the individual to find their path to improve their skillset. A diploma from a higher education institution isn’t the standard of competence it once was. Thanks to social media platforms, individuals have more opportunities to showcase their skills and abilities to employers.
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