CEO & Founder, Year Up
Principal, Grads of Life
How degree inflation is undermining American competitiveness and hurting America’s middle class.
America’s skills gap is continuing to grow. Labor participation is declining steeply, while demand for skills is sharply rising. Too many jobs are taking too long to fill, while too many aspiring workers remain on the sidelines. And American employers, people and the US economy are suffering.
The problem is most acute in middle-skills roles. Historically, these jobs provided a critical career path for millions of people with more than a high-school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree.
Employers are increasingly requesting a four-year college degree in jobs that previously have not required one. This “degree inflation” affects the two thirds of working age Americans who are otherwise capable but do not have a degree.
”Despite record-high open job postings—more than 6.1 million at the end of July 2017—millions of Americans cannot find gainful employment. Currently, the United States is home to 6.8 million unemployed Americans and another 6.7 million underemployed Americans who are seeking full-time work”
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, https://www.bls.gov/jlt/ (accessed October 2017).
of the U.S. workforce does not have a four-year college degree.
Without a college degree, millions of Americans who are ready, willing and able to do middle-skill jobs, are increasingly ineligible to apply.
But ironically, instead of improving corporate America’s ability to compete and grow, the insistence on hiring grads for middle-skill roles is having the opposite effect. It’s squeezing the pool of available graduates while forcing millions of non-grads out of contention.
Consequently, middle-skill roles are now among the hardest to fill. And degree inflation is making it more difficult — and more expensive — to recruit for these roles.
employers filter out non-grad applicants that are otherwise qualified.
of employers agree the need for a degree makes middle-skill jobs harder to fill.
Up to 6.2m jobs could be affected by degree inflation.
A college degree is a great aspiration for anyone. However, lack of one should not create artificial barriers that deny employers access to talent.
With a more intelligent approach based on competence rather than credentials, employers can combat degree inflation. They can fill middle-skill roles more easily from a wider talent pool, mitigate costs, and boost their ability to compete.
Internships, apprenticeships and vocational programs can all play a vital part to grow your talent pipeline for middle-skill roles. Whether it’s preparing young millennials to enter the workforce, retraining experienced baby boomers or attracting employees from diverse, non-traditional backgrounds, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Major employers are already investing in the fundamentals to nurture non-graduate talent, on the basis of ‘hire for attitude, train for skill’. It’s not just about cutting hidden costs, it’s about unearthing the hidden benefits of building corporate cultures that value sustainable talent development to drive long-term business success.
It’s an approach that’s working for companies including Chipotle, CVS Health, GAP, IBM, Hasbro, John Deere, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Lifespan, State Street, Swiss Post and Walmart.
Financial services firm State Street is developing Boston WINs— a workforce investment network — to hire 1000 urban school graduates by 2019. It is partnering with non-profits to get underprivileged students on the path from education to employment.
The company has already hired 200 students via the program. Says CEO Joseph Hooley: “This is not just feel-good stuff…We need more IT workers…. Boston WINs is helping us find great employees.”read the report