Do Your Employees Really Need A College Degree?

“Stay in school.” It sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? After all, you need a college degree to secure a position in this competitive job market, right? Right. And wrong. The truth is that it all depends. It all depends on what type of position you are hoping to secure, what skills you have in your arsenal, and what experience you already possess.

Do Your Employees Really Need A College Degree?

Heading off to college does make sense for many people, but not for everyone. In fact, “Pros and Cons of Earning a College Degree” purports that most new jobs created between 2012 and 2022 are projected to be in areas that simply require a high school diploma. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Education and Training Outlook for Occupations, 2012-2022,” one third of jobs are in occupations that typically require a post-secondary education, while 40 percent necessitate a high school diploma and 26 percent do not even require that. College, therefore, is definitely not for everyone. What, then, are some of the skills that employers crave?

Soft Skills

There are some skills that you simply cannot learn at college–and, according to many employers, these are lacking in today’s pool of potential candidates. Time‘s “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired” cites two surveys that show that employers are hard-pressed to find adequate levels of soft skills among new hires. The Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College shows that more than 60% of employers report that job applicants lack communication and interpersonal skills, while a similar survey conducted by Adecco reveals that 44 percent of employers say that communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are their biggest gap areas.

Yes, even the most sought-after employers value skills that are completely unrelated to having a college degree. Google, for instance, has been topping “Favorite Employer” lists for years and, according to Forbes‘ “How Google Picks New Employees (Hint: It’s Not About Your Degree)” states, “that pure learning ability–the ability to pick up new things, learn on the fly, to find patterns in disparate pieces of information, and take the next step–is the number one thing hiring managers at Google have learned to look for in candidates.” Admittedly, achieving a college degree may help you demonstrate an ability to learn, but it will not develop that ability in the first place.

Skilled Trades

A college degree does little to prepare you for certain careers. In fact, some of the most highly employable skills are developed through apprenticeship or certification programs. And, some must be acquired on the job.

“Our Obsession with College Degrees is Helping Fuel Unemployment” states that there are 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States that remain unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers. And ManpowerGroup’s “2012 Talent Shortage Survey” lists the top ten most difficult jobs to fill in the U.S.–a list which includes a huge number of careers that do not require a college degree, including the aforementioned skilled trades, sales representatives, drivers, mechanics, and machine operators. It would seem that in many cases, not having a degree can open some potentially lucrative doors.

While some career pursuits require lengthy post-secondary educations, it is important that educators, guidance counselors, and parents, alike, come to realize that college is not a viable option for everybody. And that, in many cases, employers value skills that have nothing to do with college at all.

What skills do you find are most lacking in today’s hires?

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