September 26, 2023


education gives you strength

Team NEO says skills gap is driving companies to rethink requirements for entry-level jobs

IT continues to be a growth occupation in the region. Northeast Ohio saw 4,249 of 6,457 entry-level IT jobs go unfilled in 2018, according to Team NEO. The report also estimates jobs in general computing are set to grow at a rate of 5%, web developers at 7%, and software development at 10% in a period from 2019 to 2024.

As the demand for these IT jobs increases beyond the supply of college graduates, Duritsky said, companies are de-emphasizing or even eliminating the formal bachelor’s degree requirement in favor of finding candidates with relevant skills and experience.

“Increasingly where companies are having a hard time filling positions, they are starting to view the minimum education requirements differently,” he said. “There are still some examples where a bachelor’s is required, but we are starting to see some movement.”

Some companies, including Westlake-based Hyland Software, have removed the formal education requirement for most tech job descriptions. Youngstown State University, in partnership with IBM, launched an IT Workforce Accelerator program, offering alternative educational pathways and apprenticeship programs to obtain tech credentials.

Work-based learning experiences, internships and apprenticeships designed to foster on-the-job skills are poised to be a solution for what has become “an inefficient job market,” according to a 2017 Harvard Business School study.

The study found employers that adhered to strict four-year degree requirements for entry-level and mid-skills level jobs “closed off access to the two-thirds of the U.S. workforce without a four-year college degree.” It also pointed to the pool of unemployed people ages 16 to 24 as a potential untapped resource for companies eager to find skilled labor.

Earl R. Major, vice president of human resources for Delta Dental, understands his dental benefits company needs to look beyond a strict reliance on degree requirements to build a skilled workforce, particularly in IT.

Of the about 1,000 employees at Delta Dental, more than 200 are in the IT department. The company has pulled away from relying solely on educational attainment.

Delta Dental now hosts hackathon competitions and has created summer break internships and after-school, part-time and shadowing opportunities for many local high school students, Major said.

“We want to start planting that seed at the high school level instead of waiting for them to go to college,” he said.

Delta Dental also is in the process of creating a full-time talent outreach position so it can begin engaging students as early as the sixth grade to help them become prepared for the workforce of the future.

The company, which is based in Michigan but has affiliates across the country, also recognizes candidates can be vetted based on their competence and skill level rather than using education attainment as a proxy for determining talent, Major said.

“There is a combination screening and interview process, and some jobs that require a skills assessment,” Major said. “It is not materially different than what we have always done, but now, particularly, it is more important what you bring to the table.”

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