- Employers and younger workers have warmed up to the idea that skills matter more than a traditional, four-year college degree, according to Morning Consult survey data featured in a joint report by the nonprofits American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future. But both parties remain apprehensive about making the wrong choices.
- Most employers said they thought they should look at skills rather than degrees in hiring, and 72% said they did not see degree programs as a reliable signal for assessing candidate skills, per the report. However, 52% said they continued to hire from degree programs because they viewed this as a less risky choice.
- Consequently, though 74% of Generation Z members said they wanted to learn skills that would prepare them for future jobs, only 31% said that non-degree education pathways were a better long-term investment than college degrees. Moreover, 65% of Gen Z members said they were worried about choosing the wrong post-secondary education path.
Skills-based hiring is increasingly prominent in HR and even in public discourse. Today’s market realities have set the stage for that trend; a recent Economist Impact report found that the lack of internal talent has hindered organizations’ ability to get return on investment from emerging technologies.
But the ASA and JFF report is not the first to find that recruiters have been slow to embrace alternative hiring methods. July survey results from education services provider Cengage found that a majority of employers required post-secondary degrees for entry-level jobs, and nearly half said that measuring the worth of alternative credentials was difficult.
Recruiters also may be biased in viewing degree completion as an indicator of potential. “A college education shows commitment,” said one employer cited in the ASA and JFF report. “It shows the willingness to get to the end.”
In a June virtual event hosted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, panelists spoke about the need for employers to make fundamental changes to their hiring processes in order to attract nontraditional candidates. That work may range from restructuring job descriptions to reassessing the role that hiring algorithms play in automating recruiting to eliminating degree requirements outright.
"The four-year college degree is clearly not the only path to success,” Jean Eddy, president and CEO of ASA, said in a statement. “Encouraging students to pursue that route without considering all their options is outdated and is increasingly out of step with the demands of a new generation of young people hungry for skills, opportunities, and a career journey that offers financial freedom on their own terms.”
External talent is only part of the equation, however. A recent survey by The Josh Bersin Company found most corporate training departments felt ill-equipped to create new career paths that could retain and grow existing talent.