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Future of Work

Salesforce Data: Digital Skills Could Lessen College Degree Requirements, Opening New Pathways for Untapped Talent

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Quick Take: According to Salesforce’s 2022 Global Digital Skills Index, workers with university degrees feel more prepared with digital skills than those who do not hold degrees. However, the research also shows that many workers without a college degree are taking the initiative to learn the digital skills needed for jobs of the future — providing businesses an opportunity to revisit traditional hiring requirements.

The jobs needed for today’s digital economy are changing – and so are the skills businesses need to fill them. 

Traditionally, workers haven’t been able to land a corporate job without – at a minimum – a college degree. However, as competition for tech talent continues to play an outsized role in hiring, some organizations are leaning into hiring untapped talent — including those without a degree. This trend can benefit workers who have traditionally found it difficult to break into the industry without traditional, technology-focused university degrees and certifications. 

Data from Salesforce’s 2022 Global Digital Skills Index indicates that this kind of hiring is a win for the industry, as these workers are also likely to proactively reskill and upskill on their own time to support their goals. Over half (51%) of workers, in fact, plan to learn new digital skills, ranging from data entry to app development, to help them advance their careers. Further, 17% intend to learn new skills that will lead to a different career path at their current company, and 14% plan to use newly acquired skills to start a new path outside of their current organization.

Upskilling makes its mark on the global workforce

While the Salesforce Global Digital Skills Index shows that only 14% of people without a college degree feel advanced in their workplace digital skills, that percentage is likely to increase as micro-credentials and online certifications continue to be made available globally.

This shift may encourage hiring managers to rethink how candidates are evaluated as the difference in preparedness between traditionally-educated and self-educated workers narrows.

Gen Z workers, in particular, tend to have a wide variety of educational backgrounds, frequently seizing self-development opportunities and creating new career paths.

Now, other generations are following suit, and employees at the mid-level or higher are making the switch for growth opportunities. In 2021, 53% of employed adults quit their jobs to change occupations and, of these workers, 45% were ages 30 and older.

Regardless of career stage, the global workforce is self-training on platforms such as Trailhead, Trailblazer Community, MuleSoft Community, and Tableau Community to take control.

New educational opportunities for learners not seeking a college degree

The majority of respondents (82%) to Salesforce’s Index plan to learn new skills to help grow in their current career — or start a new one. Businesses, governments, educational institutions, and communities can come together to support people’s eagerness to learn by establishing learning communities and promoting training programs in the workplace.

Universities, in particular, can marry their expertise with the market’s growth to lead this work. Many in-demand workplace skills — such as collaboration technology and cyber security — aren’t taught in higher education. Partnering with companies to teach these skills helps universities and colleges increase – if not, maintain – enrollment. It also creates more access to STEM and digital skills programs that anyone to pursue.

Companies look toward untapped talent to prepare for the digital future

The need for digital skills in the workforce is creating more competition between companies to hire and retain talent. In Europe, however, 90% of employers require workers to have at least a basic level of digital skills, while only around 60% of citizens over 16 possess them. Other regions like North America, Latin America, and Asia are experiencing similar challenges.

To help solve this digital skills gap, companies are helping students and workers upskill themselves through internships and training opportunities. 

Salesforce’s Untapped Talent programs, including Year Up in the United States and Ada in the United Kingdom, provide young adults with the skills, experience, and support to reach their potential through careers and higher education. 

And, in an effort to address the data literacy gap, Tableau announced its commitment to training 10 million people over the next five years by expanding its academic programs, offering classes on Trailhead, and expanding data education to apprenticeship programs.

Salesforce Military is also an upskilling option for those needing to add digital skills. The program provides veterans and their spouses free training, exams, and certifications, and helps line them up with job opportunities in order to kick start their careers in tech.

As roles requiring digital skills increase, and new pathways for acquiring them expand, businesses can more easily rethink degree requirements serving as a barrier for many prospective workers. Rethinking future curricula, its importance to training access, and its impact to train people for jobs of the future could, in fact, be the next big breakthrough in discovering untapped talent.    

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