Many Americans see college as a path to a good career, but the student debt crisis leaves millions of grads borrowing nearly $30,000. And with the tight labor market, some employers are dropping the college degree requirement. When people start re-thinking about the need for a degree at a four-year university, we invited expert Beth Hendler-Grunt who provides guidance to college grads on internships and their first big job, and Sinem Buber, the lead economist at Zip Recruiter to comment
The Burning Glass institute found a 5% drop in the percentage of job postings requiring at least a four-year degree. Has this been helping companies navigate the tight labor market or are they saying we’re going to waive the college degree requirements to get people in the door?
Tom Llamas: Beth, do you think the future is still going to be a four-year university for high schoolers and kids that are in kindergarten right now going all the way up? Will college look a lot different by the time they get there?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: I think it’s not a one-size-fits-all for young adults that are looking for an education, but clearly there are opportunities by going on campus. Not only the academics, but the opportunities to join clubs and to be a part of activities to gain skills like leadership, teamwork, and the ability to communicate. Those are the exact things that employers are looking for. Also, the opportunity to build a network is one of the most effective ways how you can actually land the job you desire.
Tom Llamas: The people who were hired in the last six months went through skills assessments during the hiring process. Essentially taking some type of test. Is that something colleges can still help with where it would be very tough if you didn’t have a college degree to sort of score well enough on the assessment exams to get hired?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: I think there is an opportunity for universities to really have a better connection with what employers are expecting and the more they start to see what companies are looking for the better these students will do. Understand if they need to be a great writer or have the aptitude to be adaptable or solve problems. The more universities can give that experience through internships on site experience through the university and projects in the classroom, the more you can connect it back and be more prepared to help employers in the workplace.
Tom Llamas: I think this idea is out there in America that you have to get a four-year degree, right? And they remind us it is not just the universities, it is corporations that are requiring this. But I wonder if the colleges can do a better job of making college more affordable and also figure out a way if we can get kids out there faster, so they are not spending so much money.
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Absolutely. I think there is an opportunity. With the pandemic, we see a breaking point where people are not as tolerant as what might have happened in the past. They are looking for more creative ways to be educated and prepared for the workplace. But do it in a way that really offers and adds value to a company, and how you solve a problem for an organization. Because ultimately that is what an employer wants. I think the more higher ed can have a better synergy with the workplace and what employers expect, the better off our kids will be.
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