Employers don’t value college degrees as much as originally thought, recent survey data shows, and the disdain is behind a restored appreciation for blue-collar job-seekers that bring skill and experience over education.
The study, known as the Freedom Economy Index (FEI), a joint project of job recruiting service RedBalloon and PublicSquare, surveyed opinions from 70,000 small businesses between Oct. 25 and Oct. 30, with 905 respondents, a 3% margin of error and a 95% confidence level.
When asked about the “return on investment” of higher education, a whopping 67% of participating employers responded “strongly no” when asked if they believed institutions of higher education were “graduating students with relevant skills that today’s business community needs.”
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An additional 24.4% responded with “somewhat no” while the remaining 8.7% responded either “somewhat yes,” “strongly yes,” or “other.”
“This doesn’t surprise me at all,” former construction worker and “Blue Collar Cash” author Ken Rusk said Sunday on “FOX & Friends Weekend.”
“Colleges used to be a place where you would get a degree, and that would only enhance an effective human being, an already effective human being. Now we’re seeing colleges attach these degrees to people that literally can’t come out and do some of the life skills that we need.”
Some who participated in the survey echoed that sentiment.
“The talent shortage will just get worse because high schools and colleges produce no talent,” one employer said.
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Another called for skills to be taught in high school, while a third responded to the survey question with “Absolutely not,” calling advanced education a “waste” from the perspective of a former college graduate.
Rusk said job-seekers with college degrees pose a challenge in another way.
“They’ve [graduates] kind of been hoodwinked a little bit to think that the degree is the thing that’s going to carry the day completely,” he said. “You have to remember that it’s something that you’re supposed to use to enhance the skills that you already have, and that’s what we’re seeing now. They’re relying way too much on that piece of paper or that degree, rather than getting some of the experiences that they need [and] that these companies really want.”
The survey also asked employers if they are more or less likely to consider a job-seeker with a four-year degree.
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Only 10% of participants said a college degree would make a potential job-seeker more hirable. On the other hand, 41.5% said the degree makes “no difference,” while over 40% said a college degree would make them less likely to hire a prospective applicant.
“Let’s use this to apply the law of supply and demand in our favor here, where supply is low and demand is high. That’s where the money goes,” Rusk said, stressing the importance of learning a trade in today’s labor market.
“You can get a degree, or you can get a certificate in a lot of these trades for a tenth or a fifth of what you’re paying for college. Not only that, but you’re doing it in half the time, and you’re earning money while you’re learning versus paying to learn and then hoping you get a job that matches up with that debt.”
The workplace shift away from requiring college degrees has taken hold of several major companies, including Walmart, IBM, Accenture, Bank of America and Google, as the costs associated with higher education continue to skyrocket.
High college costs have also fueled long-term discussions about student loan debt and relief from the federal government.
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FOX News’ Kendall Tietz and Nikolas Lanum contributed to this report.
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