One of the biggest trends affecting the workplace and corporate hiring this year involves education, learning, and credentials. As the economy continues to build steam, unemployment falls, and the marketplace gets more competitive, companies are reacting. This includes raising salaries, adding benefits, and creating stronger, deeper talent pools to find the employees they need for this year and the next decade (if they want to survive). I think salary increases are one of the most important results of this robust economy, but one of the more consequential effects will be qualifications that candidates present.
A smaller pool of qualified talent will force companies to both upgrade employee skills and training as they invest in their current workforce. More importantly, it will force employers to look at different education backgrounds, certifications, apprenticeships, internships, and work experiences as “relevant” to the job at hand. This is great news for entry-level workers, as well as anyone looking to retrain into a different job function or industry.
Increasingly, workers entering the job market for the first time are resisting the traditional degree due to the ever burgeoning cost of tuition, which grew by nine percent from last year for four-year public schools. In tech, the four year degree is a good foundation, but software technology completely changes and evolves every 18 months, so credentials are favored as workers increase their experience as they progress through their careers. Credentials in the tech industry can serve as a model for other industries as employers address these employment gaps.
Online courses, such as those offered by LinkedIn Learning, edX, Udemy, Coursera, The Khan Academy and others will make up this training and education shortfall and provide the certifications and knowledge for the next generation of workers. More importantly, paid apprenticeships will also provide the experience, technical knowledge, and project-based work that will address the skills-based economy, especially the gap in qualified skilled trades workers. More on apprenticeships in a future post, but rest-assured every company will need some sort of apprenticeship in the future to compete for talent. I believe vocational education in high school, apprenticeships, and dual track high school/college partnerships will return and become the norm as they were 20-30 years ago.
The most profound consequences of 4% unemployment will be long term ones as employers are forced to expand their definition of what a qualified candidate looks like. Non-traditional education, certifications, apprenticeships, and internships will play a greater role in preparing candidates for the workforce of tomorrow in the U.S., creating more opportunity for workers of all backgrounds and experience to succeed.