As college costs continue to rise, for many under-employed Americans, selecting the right program to help improve job prospects as quickly and affordably as possible is a prime concern, and one that a typical four-year degree may not fully address.
The Push Toward “New Collar” Employment
Alarmingly, while 96% of chief academic officers at colleges feel confident that they prepare students for job success, 89% of employers don’t think college graduates are job-ready. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 75% of HR professionals who reported difficulty recruiting in the past year believe there are skills gaps in job candidates, making it challenging to find suitable employees. SHRM notes that the skills gap is most visible in the trades, middle-skilled jobs and high-skilled STEM jobs. HR professionals believe that providing onsite and offsite training through seminars and workshops is one of the top ways to address the widening skills gap. Enter “new collar” workers.
Coined by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, “new collar” refers to individuals who develop the technical and soft skills needed for specific positions, typically technology-focused jobs, through non-traditional education paths. Large companies like Amazon and IBM are investing heavily in specialized training programs designed to provide their employees with the skills needed for technical and AI-focused employment. Amazon, in particular, received significant buzz over the summer with the announcement of their Upskilling 2025 initiative, investing more than $700 million in employee training.
Non-Degree Educational Offerings Are Becoming Increasingly Common
Rather than holding traditional four-year college degrees, the new collar workforce often receives training from vocational schools, software boot camps, community colleges and technical certification programs or by earning education badges. According to a September 2019 report from Credential Engine, an estimated 475,000 of the more than 730,000 secondary and post-secondary credentials available in the U.S. (or 65%), are non-degree offerings that range from digital badges to fully-accredited certificate programs. Digital badges, in particular, have scaled significantly and are expected to grow 18% year-over-year through 2023.
Higher Education Should Continue To Evolve To Meet The Needs Of A Changing Student Base
As the face of American students continues to change and employers struggle to find qualified job candidates, the higher education system should continue to adapt to ensure they are adequately addressing student needs and working to minimize the skills gap. Many higher education institutions, including traditional colleges, have already made strides by offering online programs and shorter certificate programs to address the needs of working adults. Colleges can also seek out corporate partnerships to help provide training opportunities for corporate employees, while helping to expand their reach in new target audiences.
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