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Survey Shows Small Businesses No Longer Interested in Job Seekers with 4-Year Degree

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

A rude awakening is in store for higher education as an October survey conducted by PublicSquare and RedBalloon found that small businesses are increasingly dissatisfied with the pool of college graduates, and they’re rapidly losing interest in hiring new grads with a 4-year degree.


Key Findings:


  • Skills Mismatch: When asked if colleges and universities are graduating students with relevant skills that today's business community needs, a resounding 67% of small business owners responded with a resounding "strongly no."


  • Degrees Make Little Difference: A staggering 83% of respondents indicated that they are either less likely or see no difference in hiring job seekers with 4-year degrees from major colleges or universities. Only 10% expressed a preference for candidates with a degree, suggesting a shift away from the traditional value of higher education.


  • Spend Time Gaining Skills, Not Degrees: When given the choice between a candidate who completed a 4-year degree and someone who doesn't have a degree but has four years of industry experience, a significant 86% preferred the job seeker with industry experience. This highlights the growing importance of practical, on-the-job experience.


  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Has Disappeared: 89% of respondents say America’s college campuses no longer foster the debate and critical thinking needed to solve problems.

"The higher ed system has worked itself out of a job,” said Andrew Crapuchettes, RedBalloon CEO. “By losing focus on the mission of preparing their students for their career, they’ve become a non-factor, or even a negative factor, in helping job seekers find a job.”


A sampling of verbatim responses include:


“The Talent shortage will just get worse because high schools and colleges produce no talent.”


“We would hire someone with hands-on experience over someone that read about it in a book.”


“I only care about skills. If you ain't got the skills you ain't got a job.”


“Experience cannot be replaced with education alone.”


The biggest takeaway for these universities and colleges should be that businesses are no longer buying what they’re selling.


Small businesses are increasingly dissatisfied with the pool of college graduates and are questioning the value of a traditional 4-year degree. Most respondents see little difference between candidates with degrees and those with industry experience, with the latter now gaining preference.


The challenge for higher education is this: to adapt and align its programs more closely with the demands of the job market.

America is demanding colleges and universities reevaluate their curricula, placing a stronger focus on practical skills, industry experience, and critical thinking to better prepare students for their future careers.


Continued failure to address this shift in employer preferences could, and most likely will, have long-term consequences for the relevance and efficacy of higher education in the United States.


Methodology:


The October 2023 Freedom Economy survey sampled a universe of over 70,000 small businesses from October 25-30, with 905 respondents and a 3% margin of error at the 95% confidence level.


Download the full October report here.

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9 Comments


I feel for both sides. At the end of the day I do look for special skills and characteristics when hiring. For instance, if you're an Eagle Scout - email on top of the list. Why? Practical and Critical thinking skills. If you are a single mom and put your family first and have a positive outlook, top of the list. This and more accompanied by teamwork and functioning under pressure and stressful situations. Another consideration for a jobseeker is asking the interviewee open ended questions about them and their experience. I recently met a gentleman who graduated from one of the merchant marine academies; black, single parent home, failed a few classes, worked full time and made i…

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You may not need a college degree (anymore), but if you're White, Christian, and/or have normal colored hair the doors will slam in your face. Companies care more about "diversity, etc, etc" than talent.

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I'd like to know where all these employers are... I was educated in the US Navy Nuclear Power Program, Submarine Service and I've got more than 30 years of nuclear and mechanical engineering experience, along with a healthy dollop of computer programming and computer repair experience, more than 20 years of commercial HVAC experience, and about a decade of supervisory experience, but I have no college degree because even way back then, I could see that a college degree would never pay for itself. Some jobs are, and always will be, blue collar... requiring no college degree, just requiring a working brain and some on-the-job experience.


Well, I got fired from my $143,443/yr job back in 2021 because I refused…


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Replying to

I do hope you're suing from being fired. Numerous people have been fired due to not getting the jab. They're suing and winning!

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Steve Farmer
Steve Farmer
Nov 08, 2023

Except in cases of medical profession and maybe engineering, colleges and America's emphasis on them being the key to long term security was long gone when I got my business degree in 1989....no slouch of a degree but not worth it considering what I've made and now out of work....again. You want an accountant? There used to be a statistic about how those with a four year degree made so much more on average than those without it. This was used to sucker those like me into getting a degree at whatever cost. As soon as I got out, everyone wanted experience before they'd hire me. Maybe we should replace the failing Universities with apprenticeships. With as muc…

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Barry Lange
Barry Lange
Nov 08, 2023

I have no degree, but years of hands-on experience in digital marketing, project management and even telecom engineering from years back - I really hope this study is right, because so far, I’ve had zero luck after applying for almost a year. I feel like it’s the lack of a degree.

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Barry Lange
Barry Lange
Nov 08, 2023
Replying to

That’s a good point. I’ve applied to well over 100-150 jobs in the last year, had only 4 initial interviews. Like you, I’m reliable, dedicated and hard-working. I’m 100% confident I’d do an incredible job. I just wish them the best and hope the right company eventually comes along. If anyone needs a remote digital marketing, conversion rate optimization, email marketer or project manager, please Google my name and let‘s talk!

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