Who Needs a College Degree? Filling the Skills Gap With Qualified New Collar Professionals

A college degree was once thought to guarantee a successful career. For some professions, structured coursework and vetted certification is the only way to ensure that a student was prepared to take on a challenging job. Other industries, however, don’t necessarily equate the lack of a college education to a lack of qualification. These roles are ideal for new collar professionals — that is, candidates who lack college degrees but posses relevant experience that can’t always be taught in a classroom.

New collar jobs have become gateways for people who are either changing careers or entering the private sector workforce without an academic degree. Technology jobs are plentiful and generally offer strong pathways for growth, and hiring managers are finding qualified talent coming from nontraditional sources. People who emerge from technical schools, online courses and apprentice programs may have less formal training, but make up for it with real-world experience and a fresh perspective.

Opening Technology Careers to New Collar Candidates

Many organizations are adopting this approach to talent acquisition in response to the ongoing cybersecurity skills shortage. Let’s take a look at some of the top technology jobs available to new collar professionals.

Cybersecurity Analyst

According to Cisco, there are currently 1 million unfilled cybersecurity positions around the world, making it one of the most attractive categories for job seekers. Since technology evolves on a daily basis, current experience can be as valuable as years of dedicated study. In fact, because security is so interwoven with IT, almost any experience with IT can be viewed as a qualification for a security position.

However, it’s important for job seekers to have an interest in highly detailed analysis of technical issues. These low entry-level requirements allow hiring managers to cast a wider net to find suitable applicants in a competitive market.

App Developer

Mobile applications are more than just the main entry point for businesses. Job seekers can learn much of what they need to know by using training tools available through their mobile devices and develop sample apps to showcase their abilities. Individuals can access some basic education at no charge, and they can access deeper, more detailed training via online courses as well.

Data Analyst

With so much data being generated and collected every minute, there are always new issues to resolve and insights to discover. Although machine learning is automating some of these tasks, there is still plenty of day-to-day work to be done.

Entry-level jobs such as junior data analyst generally require familiarity with database concepts, spreadsheet experience, and some sense of how businesses use and present findings from their data. Job seekers should hone their skills to include data acquisition and advanced functions. Employers should look for candidates with experience in numbers and reporting, such as those with bookkeeping backgrounds.

Network Support Specialist

Networks connect the computing world, and keeping those connections viable is critical to business. But while the requisite skills are specific and the jobs often require some kind of certification, training is available through a multitude of providers.

Technical schools are good sources to find candidates with an associate’s degree in network engineering, but a certificate issued by a network technology provider may be an even better indication that an applicant possesses the right skills. Many certification courses are offered online to help aspiring network support specialists study at their own convenience.

Multimedia Graphic Professional

Candidates with artistic skills, good design instincts and an interest in technology are well-suited for multimedia graphics positions, which involve creating visuals for websites. Applicants who have a strong social media presence may already possess these abilities. Prospective multimedia graphic designers can hone their skills by developing and posting a wide variety of graphic types. Employers can find great prospects by visiting online galleries and browsing social media platforms.

A Different Path to Success

New collar jobs offer a different path to well-paying jobs for those who elect to forego a college degree. Job seekers can develop specialized training and experience in less time and less expensively than what colleges require. As a result, employers can tap new pools of qualified candidates who are highly motivated and loyal to their companies.

Read the complete IBM report: Addressing the Skills Gap with a New Collar Approach

Scott Koegler

Freelance Writer and Former CIO

Scott Koegler practiced IT as a CIO for 15 years. He also has more than 20 years experience as a technology journalist...