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Shifting Job Market: Employers Prioritize Skills Over Degrees

In a revealing shift in the job market, a recent study shows that employers are increasingly valuing practical skills and experience over traditional college education. The Freedom Economy Index (FEI), a joint venture between RedBalloon and PublicSquare, surveyed 70,000 small businesses, uncovering a significant shift in employer preferences.

The Declining Value of College Degrees

The FEI survey found that a staggering 67% of employers strongly disagreed that higher education institutions are graduating students with relevant skills needed in today's business world. An additional 24.4% somewhat disagreed, painting a concerning picture of the perceived value of college education in the current job market.

Ken Rusk, author of "Blue Collar Cash" and a former construction worker, isn't surprised by these findings. He notes that while college degrees were once seen as enhancing an already effective individual, they now seem disconnected from the practical life skills businesses seek.

Employers’ Perspectives on Talent Shortage

The survey responses reflect a growing frustration among employers regarding the talent shortage. Some express dismay at the lack of practical skills among graduates, with one employer describing higher education as a "waste" from the perspective of a former college graduate. This sentiment is echoed by others who call for more skills training at the high school level.

Preference for Skilled Workers

The survey also revealed that only 10% of employers consider a college degree a significant factor in hiring. In contrast, over 40% stated that a college degree makes them less likely to hire a candidate. This trend highlights a crucial shift towards valuing practical, hands-on skills and experience over academic qualifications.

The Rising Demand for Trade Skills

With a growing number of trade workers retiring and not enough young people training to fill open roles, technical companies face a significant challenge. Rusk emphasizes the opportunities in learning a trade, noting that trade certificates can be obtained for a fraction of the cost and time of a college degree, often while earning money during the learning process.


The FEI survey underscores a critical change in the labor market, where practical skills and experience are becoming more valued than traditional college education. This shift presents an opportunity for individuals to consider trade careers, aligning with market demands and potentially leading to more lucrative and satisfying job prospects.


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