Starting decades ago, instead of first gaining some skills or experience, high school students were encouraged to get a college degree after graduating. At the time, and still continuing today, it’s the thing to do if you want a “good paying job”. Recently, 73% of parents surveyed indicated it is “extremely” or “very” important that their child gets a college degree. And while it is still a good route to a high paying job for many graduates, it is not the only path.

Federal Government Focuses on Skills

On June 27, the White House signed an Executive Order that directs the federal government to overhaul its long standing hiring practice of selecting applicants for certain jobs based  on possession of a college degree over only holding the applicable skills. This shift in hiring will increase the opportunities of applicants, especially veterans, whose skills come from on-the-job training, military training, or vocational/trade school learning environments. An estimated 71 million Americans have the skills to work in higher wage jobs, but currently lack the college degree or credentials required to get hired into these positions.

Industry Also Asking For the Skills

And the federal government is not the only hiring organization to recognize this shift in thinking. Apple, Google, IBM and J.P. Morgan, for example, have all been loosening their degree requirements during the last few years in favor of hiring based on skill and not degrees. One reason that prompted this hiring change is that companies were finding many college degree holders applying for jobs were not capable of doing the work; they had the education, but not the skills. In many technology jobs, especially in computer/network-related fields, experience having done the work, coupled with holding certain certifications, more than qualifies an applicant for the position.    

Apprenticeship Program Aimed at Veterans

Volvo Car USA recently started a one-year apprenticeship program aimed at training veterans to be automotive technicians and hybrid car specialists through a multi-level learning program involving eLearning, attending a four-week resident training program, and culminating with on-the-job apprenticeship at one of their participating Volvo retailers. Veterans who have Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement left can use it to receive a monthly stipend while in the program.

Education Does Not Equal Workforce Ready

The bottom line is that many colleges are giving out passing grades but failing their students. Once graduated, students are not prepared to enter the workplace with the degree they hold. 

Sadly, many that start college do not complete it. Thirty-three percent of students seeking a four-year degree had not completed it six years after starting; however, many of those same students are saddled with a large amount of student debt. And having a college degree does not guarantee getting a high-paying job. Forty-one percent of recent graduates were underemployed before the economic downturn from the pandemic. The bottom 25% of degree holders do not earn any more money than their high school graduates that did not go to college.   

Mindset Shift a Boon for Veterans

Shifting more towards skill-based hiring will open more career opportunities across the board for veterans looking to work in the civilian or government workplaces. This hiring mindset change further signifies the value and importance of hard and soft skills learned from military service. 

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.