41% of Employers Hire College Grads for Jobs Formerly Held by High School Grads

Posted By Terri Williams on May 26, 2017 at 3:20 pm
41% of Employers Hire College Grads for Jobs Formerly Held by High School Grads

It’s getting harder to land a good, well-paying job without a college degree. While some college students second-guess their college and degree choice, college grads are much better off than high school grads. Even positions that formerly required only a high-school diploma are going to those with a college degree.

Don’t expect the trend in upcredentialing – the practice of requiring more education for a job than previously needed – to change directions any time soon. A new CareerBuilder survey reveals that upcredentialing is actually on the rise:

  • 41 percent of employers are hiring college-educated workers for positions that had been primarily held by those with high school diplomas, compared with 37 percent in 2016.
  • 33 percent of employers are hiring more workers with master’s degrees for positions that had been primarily held by those with a four-year degree, compared to 27 percent of employers last year.

Why employers continue to raise educational requirements

Some workforce critics believe that employers are merely being greedy. In other words, in jobs where supply exceeds demand, companies can afford to be choosy, and they’re choosing to only hire only the more educated applicants.

However, Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, tells GoodCall®, “Compared to 10 years ago, more jobs now have specific technical requirements, and therefore, need a higher level of education.” In addition, she says that graduate degrees are also more specific. “You’re no longer getting general degrees in policy or administration, you now have a M.S. in supply chain management, for example.”

This upcredentialing is occurring across the board, and even includes entry-level positions, which Haefner says are also becoming more complex. “Employers are looking for workers with a solid knowledge base and skillset that can make an impact on the business right away.” 

Dave Arnold, president of Arnold Partners LLC, a CFO search firm, tells GoodCall®, “Even with what was considered ‘blue collar’ jobs where people are working with their hands, the need for technical know-how is a must.” Arnold says these workers must now know how to read and comprehend technical manuals and navigate complex software programs.” As positions become more sophisticated, he says undergraduate degrees are popular because regardless of major, they equip students to solve problems.

“The corollary to this is the need – or competitive reality – for advanced degrees for executive level roles: Most people in the C-suite now have some type of graduate degree, and for many executives, it was earned at a top business school,” Arnold explains.

The survey also reveals that employers report the following benefits of raising educational requirements:

  • Higher quality work: 61 percent
  • Productivity: 51 percent
  • Communication: 45 percent
  • Innovation/idea generation: 41 percent
  • Employee retention: 33 percent
  • Revenue: 26 percent
  • Customer loyalty: 24 percent

“Employers who have raised educational requirements are seeing a positive impact on several levels,” Haefner says. “So, there is motivation to continue this trend within their organizations.”

Support for additional education for high school and college grads

Fortunately, many companies are committed to help their employees, high school and college grads, gain additional education and training. According to the survey:

  • 51 percent of employers plan to provide more online, competency-based learning opportunities to employees in 2017.
  • 41 percent of employers are sending current workers back to school to get an advanced degree – with 14 percent fully funding the degree, and 22 percent funding it partially.

“As competition for talent continues to heat up, companies should prioritize employees’ training and career development, not only as a means to have a more effective workforce, but also as a way to keep strong performers around,” Haefner says.

Americans blame a lack of training for a lack of promotions. “Lack of career opportunities is a top reason employees say they leave an organization, so making this investment is pivotal,” according to Haefner.

But it’s not just a good retention strategy. It’s also a good recruitment tool. “Job seekers from entry-level to executive-level say continued learning and development is among the most important aspects of a prospective job – and this makes sense, since continuous learning is key when crafting a sustainable career,” Haefner says.

Candidates and employers without the necessary skills may still have an opportunity to get up to speed. “The majority of employers we’ve surveyed said they’ve hired a person who does not fully meet the stated requirements for the role and then trained them on the job,” Haefner explains.

Some companies offer online classes, while others provide mentoring programs, and even tuition reimbursement for college grads. “CareerBuilder and Capella Learning Solutions launched an initiative called RightSkill, which enables workers to upskill and reskill for in-demand jobs within 60 days or less,” Haefner says. “The program, which is currently free for candidates, teaches competencies online based on real-time data and guidance from employers.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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