- Employees who develop job-related skills through pathways other than a Bachelor's degree — such as military service, training programs, bootcamps or on-the-job learning — may take some 30 years to earn a starting wage equal to what college graduates make upon entering the workforce, according to a January report by nonprofit Opportunity at Work.
- The report also said employees without college degrees have lost access to jobs that provide career mobility, which Opportunity at Work divided into "gateway" and "destination" job categories. Workers without college degrees held 54% of such jobs in 2000, but only 46% in 2020.
- Opportunity at Work identified 30 jobs for employers to focus on to expand access to such workers, including industrial engineer, financial manager, computer programmer and HR and training specialist, among others. Employers could do so by, for example, removing unnecessary requirements and investing in regional partners that strengthen job pathways, the organization said.
There are a variety of reasons workers without college degrees may be excluded from roles they are qualified to take.
Technology is one potential barrier; a 2021 report by Accenture and the Harvard Business School found 94% of employers had used their recruiting management or marketing systems to filter or rank middle-skilled job candidates, those without a college degree. Because such systems score candidates using college degree or skill parameters, "exclude from consideration viable candidates whose resumes do not match the criteria but who could perform at a high level with training," per the report.
Training, coincidentally, is still top of mind for many workers as the pandemic continues. A September 2021 survey conducted by Monster found more than half of employees were concerned about their careers due to skills gaps. But that also could present a retention opportunity, as 45% of respondents said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they were offered skills training.
During past talent shortages, learning and development teams played a big part in many organizations' efforts to find middle-skill talent. Observers noted in 2019 the trend of employers opening up their education and training programs to junior employees and those who fell outside high-end talent categories.
Additionally, employers may set internal goals and incentivize managers to hire and promote workers without college degrees, Opportunity at Work said. They also can set cultural changes, such as addressing underlying barriers these workers face and connecting efforts to address these barriers to broader diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging programs.