Skills-Based Hiring Is The Future—Where Do Degree-Obsessed Millennials Fit In?


Jasmine Walker, a 30-year-old professional with a bachelor's degree from Emory University and a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University in public health, found herself in a pivotal role as an infection control lead at the University of Chicago during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the vaccination efforts that brought down infection rates, her position was discontinued less than three years later. While possessing dual degrees from prestigious institutions and years of practical experience, Walker has been unsuccessful in securing a suitable full-time senior role in the non-profit or public health sector nearly a year after her layoff. She discovered that, in the current job market, higher education alone is not sufficient—employers prioritize specific skills.

Realizing the importance of additional certification, Walker has pursued marketing and conscious leadership management certificates. As a self-proclaimed overachiever, she acknowledges that the hard and soft skills acquired through these programs are instrumental in setting her apart during her job search. Many individuals in her generation were raised with the belief that a college education was the key to career success and job security, with a significant increase in college attendance rates from 1970 to 2010. However, trust in higher education has diminished, and there is growing consideration to eliminate degree requirements, particularly as advancements in technology, such as AI, reshape the future of work.

Scarlett Howery, Vice President of Public Workforce Solutions at DeVry University, emphasizes the crucial need for up-skilling, especially for vulnerable groups in the workforce like young adults, women, and people of color. This involves providing training programs and development options to bridge skill gaps in the workplace. Data from DeVry University indicates significant disparities in up-skilling opportunities for women and people of color, exacerbating existing barriers to progress for these groups.

Cori Murray, a veteran journalist, entrepreneur, and mentor, shares her firsthand experience of the impact of not up-skilling on financial stability. She stresses the necessity of staying professionally valuable and adaptable, highlighting the potential financial benefits of completing up-skilling programs, which can result in an average salary increase of $8,000. Additionally, she emphasizes that workers who up-skill not only benefit themselves but also contribute to potential cost savings for employers in rehiring and retention efforts. Walker understands that continuously acquiring new skills is vital in keeping up with the rapidly evolving workforce, enhancing her readiness for the competition in the job market. She underscores that up-skilling is not about seeking prestige but about developing a deeper understanding of others, improving leadership, and fortifying professional viability.  

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