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Degrees or Skills?

Current wisdom states that companies are hiring skills over degrees. Why doesn’t it feel that way?   

In the news: The story is disheartening, especially for the younger generations. 52% of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. But US News and World Report’s “2021 Best Jobs”  included the following required levels of eductions for these top jobs: Associates Degree: 9% Bachelors Degree: 37% Masters Degree: 18% Doctorate 26% for the top 57 jobs posted. In February, 379,000 jobs were added to the economy, up from 49,000 in the previous month.  And while this was the most positive jobs report since October, this offers little relief to the almost 10 million unemployed and continuing to signal an anemic pace of recovery.  There is hope with immunizations on the rise. Those who are lucky enough to secure a job tend to settle for less income.

Additionally, college graduates are facing the worst job market in a generation.   Yet MBA programs are soaring, with the main reason students are looking to ride out the turbulent job market.  What’s odd is there is little information about how these programs offer in-demand skills for 21st-century jobs; moreover, they carry an average price tag of $125-130,000.        

Skills Gap widens: employers scramble to find talent:  

Meanwhile, there are  6.9 million jobs available in the US, and according to Monster’s Future of Work report,  82% of employers in the US plan to hire this year. Moreover, there are paths to attain in-demand skills employers are looking for at no charge or a fraction of higher education costs.   The “skills gap,” a fundamental mismatch between an employee’s skill set and the skills required to perform a job, was exasperated by the pandemic.  According to the World Economic Forum, “closing the skills gap could add $11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028”. Recognizing the impact global impact, World Economic Forum launched its Reskilling Revolution at the start of 2020 to reskill or upskill 1 billion people globally by 2010.  Technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Tesla, Siemens, and Oracle have expanded their talent base by looking beyond a college degree.

Last summer, Google offered 100,000 scholarships for online certificates in data analytics, project management, and UX programs offered on Coursera at the cost of $49 per month.   Ginni Rometty, C.E.O. of IBM, coined the phrase  “new collar worker” to advance the idea of forming a “new collar” job market to address the growing skills gap in 2016. IBM introduced the P-Tech (Pathways in Technology) partnership. P-Tech is an innovative skills-based six-year program that blends high school with a two-year associate’s program. Graduates are workforce-ready with the soft and hard skills to thrive in the  4th Industrial Revolution. P-Tech has become the most prominent international public/private education career readiness program. The Markle Foundation launched The Rework America Business Network to build a digital literacy framework and increase workers’ pathway to income working across sectors to scale skills-based practices in 2018. 

The Disconnect:

First, the media’s mixed messaging is confusing and frustrating. Next, there are still job postings that require a bachelor’s degree.  In doing this, employers eliminate more than fifty percent of the potential talent.  Additionally, this practice limits diversity. Next, there is a fundamental disconnect in processing technology’s impact on our jobs and communities and amplified the pandemic. The skills gap originated in the “tech” sector, where Silicon Valley and technology companies across the nation’s most significant challenge attract and retain top talent.

The pandemic caused companies across all business sectors to adopt emerging technologies to remain competitive in their space resulting mismatch between existing skills and the skills required to perform the jobs of today and into the future. But most of us have not realized that our past credentials will not provide the foundation needed to serve in the new jobs. Forbes Coaches Council Member, Tracy Levine, explains how to adapt to the changing work dynamics to secure sustainable income and a career path. If you have not already evaluated your business’s future and started upskilling, it will become increasingly difficult.  A friend of mine says, do the hard work now or face the impossible later.

Final Thought

The future of work is here. The landscape is hard to navigate, but you must chart a course and get started. HR needs to prioritize skills to prepare for the emerging employer needs. By automatically ruling out a huge segment of potential talent, it costs the company time, money and threatens the ability of DE&I.

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