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The Future Of Work Is Skills, Not Degrees

The nature of work in America is changing slowly, but it’s really changing.

According to a new report from JFF (Jobs For The Future), 81% of employers think they should be hiring based on the skills someone has, rather than the degree they were awarded;  and 68% think they should be hiring graduates of programs that don’t even award degrees, as long as the students learn the right skills.

So far though, a slim majority, 52%, still only hire from traditional colleges.  

The big shift hasn’t happened yet, but it is happening. It has to, because the traditional college system is no longer working for many.

“Even before the pandemic,” the report says, “research showed that some 80% of Human Resource leaders could not find workers with the skills they needed. In 2022, things are far more dire. Nearly half (47%) of businesses report that they have jobs they simply cannot fill, which greatly exceeds the 48-year average. There are some 11.4 million unfilled positions in the U.S. today, many of which do not require a degree. The impacts of so many unfilled jobs on the economy and the wellbeing of families and businesses has wide-ranging and potentially serious impacts.”

Colleges across the country have seen a substantial drop in enrollment, while skills based trainings are seeing a noticeable rise. If these trends continue, skills-based hiring will become normalized across industries.

It might not happen overnight, because as the report suggests everyone hesitates to go first. It feels like a risk to not get a degree when you can, and even though 72% of hiring managers say that a degree is not a reliable indicator of skills, they are still hesitant to emphasize skills over degrees when hiring.  

But at some point not changing becomes the bigger risk. According to JFF:

“The global talent shortage stands at a sixteen-year high and a report from the World Economic Forum predicts that half of the global workforce will need to be reskilled in the next five years. Today’s workplaces, though, require skills that are not necessarily being delivered through traditional higher education programs and workers who are not necessarily arriving in roles through traditional hiring practices.”

The research shows that both employers and high school students want more information about non-degree education options, while at the same time non-degree education programs are getting better and better at supporting career goals.  

Put it all together, and change is coming — one that could help employees and employers alike.

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