The year of change for higher education was in 2018. A college degree was the steppingstone to a career, but the announcement by more than 15 of the biggest names in business that they would no longer require employees to have a college degree rocked the foundation of higher education.
Google, Apple, and IBM were just a few, and it seems that more employers are jumping on this bandwagon every day. Companies are increasingly dropping the college-degree prerequisite because they realize that time spent during academic courses does not necessarily translate to a strong work ethic, competency, and talent in the workplace. This is especially the case in the IT industry.
The tech industry is rich with career opportunities. Recruiters I have spoken to, have noted that advancements in job positions can be rapid and the salary increases accompany those advancements. To fill these jobs, New Collar Workers have become the group of career hunters most often seen in the search pool. New Collar Worker was coined in 2016 by IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty and defined as individuals who develop technical and soft skills needed to work in the contemporary tech industry through nontraditional education paths. Veterans fit the New Collar Worker definition due to their decision to travel down these pathways. Caught in today’s unemployment and underemployment situation, many veterans have a high sense of urgency to career opportunities. And given that time is money, they focus on getting credentials as quickly as possible to qualify for high-demand jobs — rather than enroll in years-long degree programs.
Employers are realizing that college degrees may not neatly map to the skills they seek in candidates. Bureau of Labor & Stats shows at least six IT job fields projected to experience higher growth rates than all other occupations. They pay at least $65,000 a year and 40% of people currently in those roles do not have a four-year degree. So clearly, there is no need to have an artificial barrier limiting tech jobs to degree-holders when so many people in those jobs lack a college degree.
Still, just because these jobs may not require a degree does not mean that they are easy. Having a verifiable skill set and competencies are vital and verification often comes from industry certifications, not certificates, earned from an authorized training provider.
Certifications versus certificates seems like a semantics issue but the two are vastly different. Certificates tend to be a subset of academic courses from degree programs, which means that they may not be actual indicators of complete professional competency. Certificates tend to be “paper trophies” for professionals. Certifications, on the other hand, go beyond the theoretical knowledge degrees of and confirm evidence-based application of skills combined with practical experience. IT certifications give hiring managers confidence that they are evaluating candidates on specialized knowledge and are ready to work on day one.
Certification training will continue following employer demands for qualified applicants and the evolution of new technologies. For many hiring leaders, one of the valuable lessons over the last decade and to applied for future recruitment, is that the talent pipeline reaches well beyond traditional college sources. Their attention is being directed towards industry approved training institutions that are producing qualified, “ready to work” candidates, who are hitting the pipeline much quicker than those sitting in classes that are not applicable to the job.
What this means for those transitioning from the military and for veterans is that they are setting themselves up for a successful career transition into an industry that is job rich, faster than what a college degree track offers, and provides a compensation/benefits package commensurate with what they experienced while serving. It runs along the same lines for spouses but another element that exists is that a certification track into the IT industry can offer spouses career opportunities perhaps not available in “military life” due to not being able to remain static in one area because of multiple relocations with changes in duty stations.
The pace of technology adoption continues to accelerate with no end in sight. And as the nature of work continues to evolve, so too will the requirements sought out in candidates. My advice to veterans: become part of the New Collar Worker movement and become the solution to the void we are seeing in the tech job recruitment market.
Tim Kane is a veteran and the military operations manager at New Horizons of Phoenix.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, email@example.com.