Time to Hire STARS (Skilled Through Alterative Routes)

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The importance of a college degree in the workplace is something that has changed in value over time. Initially in America, a degree was only needed to pursue advanced careers in fields like medicine or law. In recent years, however, an emphasis has been placed on the importance of a degree for practically any white-collar position. The good news is that more and more employers are now placing less stress on the need to have a college degree and as a result have so many more qualified candidates to choose from. 

Sources such as Forbes claim that there is “degree inflation,” which is making the labor market inefficient. So, as of 2024, college degree-holders are not the only talent pool for employers to turn to. There are other pools that remain largely untapped. One such pool is STAR candidates, or Skilled Through Alternative Routes. This group is made up of workers who did not obtain a college degree, yet learned skills in other ways, like through the military, specialized training, or general work experience. According to Tear the Paper Ceiling, STAR candidates make up 50% of the workforce (around 70 million individuals). There are many unique benefits that STARs candidates offer, and their skillsets are immensely diverse. As an employer, it may be time to consider STARs for your workforce as opposed to relying solely on college graduates.

There are numerous benefits to hiring STAR candidates, first and foremost of which is the fact that STARs have real-world experience right off the bat. While degree-holders spend years in school preparing for life in the workforce, STARs are already adapted to the ins and outs of the real world. This can be extremely beneficial for your business or organization, especially in terms of the onboarding process. According to Kyle Clements of Quipli, “What’s more important [than college experience] is the candidate’s previous job experience and how they’ve spent their professional life,” when looking to hire new employees.

Another benefit of hiring STARs is their understanding of team dynamics. This is especially true of veterans, but can also be found in other STAR candidates as well. Leadership and teamwork are essential skills for employees to have in order to maintain the most effective team possible. Being a team player is a skill learned over time, and earning a degree does not necessarily involve teamwork. Success in college is often self-oriented. While this is beneficial for the individual, it may be beneficial to hire someone who already has an understanding of what it means to be part of a team.

The third and final benefit of hiring STAR candidates is their work ethic. Now, this isn’t meant to be slander against degree-holders; they can be just as valuable as STARs. However, real-world experience also comes with a more task-oriented mindset. College is great, but the classroom doesn’t always reflect real life, and so college graduates often need to adapt to the fast-paced reality of the world of work. This article by Cherrie Kwok outlines why success in school may not translate to success in the workplace

So, while college graduates are always a valuable talent pool to tap into, consider STARs to fill positions in your workforce.


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