The Talent Market Is Expected to Remain Tight in 2024.

Many Companies Are Targeting This Barrier.

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By Marq Burnett – Associate Editor, The Playbook, The Business Journals

In an era where talent is both hard to find and sometimes even harder to keep, companies are having to rethink their hiring processes and remove barriers to entry. 

One of the big targets for 2024? Degree requirements.

 Workforce development professionals and inclusivity advocates have regularly said the requirements serve as an artificial barrier that limits talent pools and reduces economic mobility. They’ve instead encouraged a shift to skills-based hiring.

Many companies appear to be listening at a time when the talent market remains tight.

A new survey from higher education planning site Intelligent.com found 45% of companies that currently have degree requirements plan to eliminate them for some positions in 2024. 

Additionally, the survey found 55% of respondents said they eliminated degree requirements for some positions in 2023.

In that group, 70% removed it for entry-level roles, 61% for mid-level roles and 45% for senior-level roles.

Employers that removed the requirement said it boosted the number of applicants.

Intelligent’s survey isn’t the only evidence of a shift away from degree requirements in 2023, as we previously reported. An analysis by workforce data firm Revelio Labs found the share of job postings requiring at least a bachelor’s degree fell from 52.5% in April 2020 to 47.2% November 2022.

“The general trend is one of decreasing formal educational requirements across the board, across the economy,” said Lisa Simon, a senior economist with Revelio Labs, in a previous story by The Playbook.. “And that’s exactly what we expect to see in a tight labor market.”

She said for a long time, employers used formal education, such as degrees, as ways to easily screen applicants. It’s harder to screen for skills in non-technical fields. Now, companies are increasingly interested in getting more applicants in the door, and that means being stingier with the screening mechanisms, she said.

“I think employers are finally ready to embrace this and omit less formal requirements and instead increase the skill requirements,” Simon said.

While the shift to skills-based hiring offers several potential benefits, experts have said it’s important for employees and employers to consider what happens once workers are on the job — such as a career path that allows for growth and accumulating new skills, including soft skills.

Without that, future barriers could still remain for those without a degree — especially since not all employers are embracing the shift.

“While a young person may be able to get an entry-level job without a bachelor’s degree, the lack of the degree along with the other ‘soft skills’ that one gains in college can make it difficult to climb the corporate ladder,” said professor and higher education adviser Diane Gayeski of Intelligent.

Intelligent’s survey also found:

• 80% of employers are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to favor work experience over education when assessing job candidates’ applications. With that, 81% say it is important for recent college graduates to have work experience. 

• 75% of employers agree that certificate programs have value, while 68% stated the same for associate degrees and 61% for online degrees and apprenticeships.

• To determine a candidate’s fit for a job, 68% of employers give candidates test assignments, and 64% give personality tests.