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Bloomberg: “A B.A. Isn’t the Only Way.” Here’s What We’ve Seen.

person working as a welder

In a recent Bloomberg editorial, the authors discuss that while college degrees have helped people become more productive and earn more, the cost of education has also skyrocketed. By making a college degree less attainable and reducing the return on this investment for many fields, they wisely support other ways for people to succeed without a degree:

“Over the last century, the growth of America’s college-going population has raised living standards, fueled mobility and contributed to the nation’s economic strength. What’s needed now is an educational system that offers Americans more than one path to success.”

To build upon their perspective, we’ve tapped into our unique view of how education influences success for the people we put to work.

There are many ways to succeed

Although there are fields, like engineering, where a four-year or more advanced degree is essential, it doesn’t always justify the ever-increasing cost of college. For example, many of the people in customer service roles have seen success by simply working their way into elevated roles. There are a number of in-demand healthcare roles, such as phlebotomists (people who take blood), that require education shorter than four years. We have seen “industrial athletes” at some of our automotive manufacturing clients go from entry-level production roles into management.


Skilled trades show a way

Nowhere shows as much potential without a degree as skilled trades. These jobs serve a critical role in building America, and the people filling these roles are compensated for that importance. In many cases, the creative aspect of these skilled trades leads to a satisfaction in making something new and better that is just as important as the financial compensation. We have placed people in a wide range of skilled trades such as machining, heavy equipment operation, mechanics and welding, where people are finding financially rewarding careers that make the most of their strengths.

As one of our machinists put it: “A lot of people are realizing the potential for a rich career in machining. Maybe it’s someone who considers becoming an engineer but isn’t up for pursuing a four-year degree. Or it’s someone who has this natural gift of spatial intelligence and realize that with a two-year technical degree in machining, they can make more than someone who comes out with a four-year degree in business.”

As we have mentioned in past posts, there are a wealth of training options. Apprenticeship programs, also mentioned in the Bloomberg editorial, let students learn while still earning money, rather than running up student loan debt. Apprentices can often complete their training in a matter of months and enter an in-demand job paying more than many recent college grads.

Once working, people have the ability to perfect their trade through experience and get to see their potential pay grow.

But in many cases, such as with one of our welders, education can come just as much from a willingness to listen and a desire to improve:

“My dad was a welder and I used to go out in the field with him. I learned from him something I applied early on — listening to the older guys. That’s the key to early learning, just watching and listening, getting pointers. It’s an important lesson, not acting like you’re a total know-it-all. You got to be humble in the beginning if you ever want to be proud of your work eventually.”

Building careers beyond a degree

Many people looking to make ends meet might just be looking for a job. We have seen success in working with people to focus beyond just short-term needs to building a meaningful career. By learning and developing on the job and through training, people can grow in their value to companies and see their earnings grow accordingly.

The Bloomberg article mentions that there is often too much reliance on automated hiring tools that overlook qualified candidates who might not check off the degree box. We couldn’t agree more and find it essential to take the time to meet with candidates and learn about their goals, skills and interests to find their best fit. This isn’t always easy, and we are always looking for ways to listen to people better. But we find that listening to people is the best way to match people to meaningful futures.

Curious about how to build a career you will thrive at, whether you have a degree or not? Visit our job board or create a free career account today. Upload your resume and customize your job search based on your skills and interests. And consider reaching out to one of our recruiters who are skilled at providing career advice you can use.