Even at the turn of the century, a college degree was a golden ticket to begin a professional career. A stamp of higher education on the resume was the only way to a comfortable, salaried position with associated perks. While the direct correlation between a degree and potential for long-term income has been consistent, the nature of work and career has changed over the last few years with the right skills being prized over academic qualifications. The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been devastating on almost all economies. But at the same time, it has offered employers an opportunity to reshape their recruitment practices around this shifting paradigm.
Emerging skills-based roles
The World Economic Forum (WEF), in itsJanuary 2020 report, claimed that more than one billion jobs are expected to be transformed by technology over the next decade. But that has already been fast-tracked due to COVID-19. More than ever before, service staffs at leading restaurants are taking orders on a tablet connected to a centralized processing system. Apps are being widely used for shopping and tracking orders. There’s little downtime for critical applications. Data analysts and data security officers are being hired to collect, maintain, and secure customer data.
The COVID-induced economic downturn has given companies ample reason to act at scale. The global job market has witnessed a correlation between education level and joblessness. For instance, in the US, employment rate among workers having a bachelor’s degree or above ranged around 6% from February to May. But the employment rate for those without a high school diploma was around 21% in the same period.
Where the job market is headed
This goes to show that the future of work won’t be only about college degrees. It’ll be about the skills required for a particular job. For those without a formal college degree, the time has come to move towards skill-based careers and increase diversity among the workforce.
There has been a rapid and unprecedented rise in new kinds of digital jobs over the past few years. The WEF, in itsJobs of Tomorrowreport, says there’ll be huge influx of work roles based on data collection and artificial intelligence (AI). As a result, new roles in cloud computing, design, and product development and innovation are expected to emerge. These jobs will require talent with relevant skills that can be learned without a college degree.
Companies are already there
According toGlassdoor, many leading employers like Google, EY, Penguin Random House, and Apple have already started recruiting from alternate talent pools. Many are investing in upskilling programs for continuous learning of their workers. Some companies like Infosys have brought together a number of partners on a free online platform to extend apprenticeship opportunities and pre-job training to candidates, offering them new career pathways.
Looking at the crystal ball
A bigger and more diverse workforce can be utilized with a shift in focus from degrees to skills. This will also bridge the opportunity-employment gap. It will lead to a skill-based education and employment system which not only embraces degrees and credentials but attaches equal importance to hands-on knowledge and experience.
Interestingly, the future of work won’t be only about hard skills. It will be about holistic jobs skills. Employers would look beyond technical or task-oriented skills. Companies are increasingly looking for people who come with creative problem-solving skills, have a collaborative and empathic mindset, and can deal with complexity and ambiguity. None of these skills can be learned through a college degree alone.