Fixing the Talent Shortage: Drop the College Degree Requirement

After serving their country and gaining valuable experience in the process, many of our nation’s veterans still struggle to find jobs when they return home. Veterans without college degrees are often overlooked for high skill jobs. Companies should consider veterans’ experiences to be as valuable as a college degree and prioritize technical, leadership, and critical thinking skills that make veterans some of the strongest members of the U.S. workforce.

new study shows that 45 percent of employers and 67 percent of large organizations struggle to find qualified talent. Among the hardest positions to fill are electricians, sales representatives, engineers, technicians, and IT workers. The skills required for these jobs are not easily acquired in college, but almost all are honed in the U.S. military.

So what skills and qualifications does a veteran have that a college grad may not? Teamwork, communication, leadership, and management skills — all hallmarks of military life — are just a few. Rather than studying for school exams, military personnel constantly develop new skills and learn to use new tools, gaining hands-on experience in the process. A college student’s error might result in a poor grade on a test, but military personnel are tested in stressful situations in which an error might mean the difference between life and death.

While an undergraduate education has merit, many find that college prioritizes self-discovery through experimentation, rather than acquiring skills that can help build a company. Students are often insulated from the adversity and challenges that corporate managers want their employees to overcome. The most desired trait listed by recruiters is a psychological dedication to a long-term mission — a pillar of any veteran’s mentality.

We have filled our ranks with highly talented workers who demonstrate exceptional focus, drive, and achievement in the face of adversity. Our “Commitment to Veterans” program matches veterans’ military positions with private-sector jobs for which they directly qualify. This gives Sallyport access to thousands of top-notch workers with diverse backgrounds and skill sets.

Companies should be open-minded when it comes to hiring qualified candidates with non-traditional backgrounds and educational paths. Investing in highly trained candidates, like veterans, can increase diversity and dynamism among workers. Eliminating the college-degree requirement would not only combat underemployment among veterans but would improve earning potential for men and women who are too often passed over for jobs they can do.

For some of the best talent this country has to offer, companies should take a page from our book: Look beyond college degrees and hire military veterans.

Sarita Chauhan is director of human resources at Sallyport Global. She has over 15 years of experience working in human resources. She is a long-term resident of Reston, Virginia, and graduate of the University of Maryland.

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