A college degree isn't the sole way to career success.
A college degree can be an early stepping stone to a satisfying, successful career. But it's not the only way. While more individuals newly on their career journey as well as employers are starting to acknowledge that, actions are not supporting those beliefs, according to American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future's Degrees of Risk: What Gen Z and Employers Think About Education-to-Career Pathways … and How Those Views Are Changing. The whitepaper features research from Morning Consult and surveys and interviews of 1,500 Gen Zers and more than 600 employers.
Most employers and Gen Zers said that companies should hire for skills rather than degrees. Further, nearly three-quarters of organizations believe that a degree doesn't necessarily mean a candidate will have the necessary skills to do the job. However, more than half still hire for degrees because they believe that is a less-risky choice, according to Degrees of Risk.
Teens also view a degree as a safer option, despite the potential for significant debt following a four-year higher-education route. Researchers found that two-thirds of Gen Z respondents are concerned about college debt, but 42 percent said their families expect them to pursue a college degree.
To shift mindsets, Gen Z and employers need to understand options. Four out of five employers said they need more information on how nondegree programs differ, and nearly three-quarters of teens believe that high schools should do more to help them understand alternatives to college degrees.
The report recommends more research into long-term outcomes of education-to-career alternatives, changing the narrative around how options are presented to young people and the workforce. It also recommends greater investments in workforce development and advises career readiness being part of the K–12 experience.
Talent development professionals can work with HR and executives and encourage them to consider young talent with skills and promise. Likewise, TD can collaborate with high schools and speak with students to inform them of options beyond a four-year degree.
"There are some 11.4 million unfilled positions in the U.S. today, many of which do not require a degree," the report states, citing the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The impacts of so many unfilled jobs on the economy and the wellbeing of families and businesses has wide-ranging and potentially serious impacts."