Today’s Workforce and the Changing Landscape of Postsecondary Education

June 1, 2024

The modern workforce has undergone significant changes in recent years due to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic unpredictability and the emergence of new technologies. Education has also evolved with increased costs of four-year education, greater accessibility to the workforce via alternative paths and concerns surrounding mental health and safety affecting the way current teens view their future. 

While a four-year degree remains a common choice for high school students and can lead to a successful career, many no longer see it as a necessity for success 

The most recent data from the Question The Quo Education Pulse survey, a national study powered by ECMC Group that gathered insights from teens ages 14-18 to uncover how high school students are thinking about and planning for their future education and careers, shows that 75% of teens feel pressure to pursue a four-year degree but more than half believe they can be successful without one. Also, nearly half of students want their post-high school education to last less than four years, although most teens still believe that education of some kind after high school is necessary. 

There are many industries in need of workers who may or may not have a four-year degree, including healthcare, technology and skilled trades. The skills needed for these jobs can be gained through routes such as community college, workforce training, bootcamps, certificate programs, military service or on-the-job learning. These routes can provide workers with the knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen field, often without such as significant burden of student debt. 

As students’ opinions and actions change, the workforce is reacting. A 2023 study from Intellegent.com found that 45% of companies plan to eliminate bachelor’s degree requirements for some roles starting next year. This adaptation will enable the hiring of more individuals from a variety of educational backgrounds. 

By pursuing routes other than a four-year degree, students and workers can gain the skills they need to succeed in their chosen field. Employers can also play a role by rethinking their hiring practices and focusing on the expertise that workers bring to the table, rather than solely their educational background. By changing the way we think about education, we can create a more equitable and inclusive workforce that benefits everyone. 

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To learn more about the Question The Quo campaign, check out other sections on our website.  

ECMC Group developed the Question The Quo campaign to empower high school students to explore the various postsecondary education options available and take the path that's right for them. Grounded in the results of national surveys conducted in partnership with VICE Media, Question The Quo encourages teens to evaluate education beyond high school while considering cost, parental and role model influences, and societal norms. 

Question The Quo is powered by ECMC Group, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit with a mission to help students succeed by creating, providing and financially supporting advancements in postsecondary education.