Skills-based hiring broadens talent pool

Fewer well-paying jobs are requiring four-year degrees

Skills-based hiring

One of the best things about staffing in the print and graphics industries is that we are often on the leading edge in hiring, training, and retaining trends. Things that companies in our industry have done all along are finally making it to the mainstream.

Skills-based hiring is the future, and the future is now

Finally, tech companies and corporations are benefiting from what we have known for decades. Hiring based on a candidate’s skills is as valuable as— if not more valuable than—a four-year degree from a well-known university. 

“In the last few years, major American companies in every industry have pledged to change their hiring habits by opening the door to higher-wage jobs with career paths to people without four-year college degrees,” the New York Times reported. 

The Harvard Business Review noted that both a “structural reset” and a “cyclical reset” have contributed to a rise in skills-based hiring and a de-emphasizing of degrees—to a degree. The structural reset began when the labor market tightened in the late 2010s. 

“Between 2017 and 2019, employers reduced degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill positions and 31% of high-skill positions. Among the jobs most affected were those in IT and managerial occupations, which were hard to fill during that period,” HBR reported.

The HBR’s report refers to the hiring habits that changed during the pandemic as a cyclical reset because of the emergency nature of the conditions. For example, in job postings for intensive-care and critical-care nurses, employers asking for a bachelor’s degree between 2019 and 2020 declined by 12% – from 35% to 23%. America simply needed nurses. The pandemic worsened the labor shortage, complicating the issues which still continue today. 

Ask for a mix of skills to find the best candidates

Fewer four-year degrees are available today than in previous years that focus on printing or graphic pre-media. The number of technical programs that offer associate degrees or certifications has reduced and many no longer exist. As a result, the print industry relies heavily on skills learned on the job to hire appropriate candidates.

Just as important, our industry is invested in on-the-job training to help new hires upskill if they bring transferable skills such as communications, customer service, and leadership into a new position but not as many technical skills.

Read our recent post about “power skills,” the hot new skills that come from within.

At Semper, our job postings focus almost exclusively on a mix of job skills, transferable skills, and the promise of training for well-paid positions. For example, a recent posting for an HP Indigo Operator near Minneapolis, MN, required 2+ years of machine operating experience, a high school diploma or GED, a willingness to learn the digital print process, and that the candidate be a “team player.” This opportunity started at nearly twice the state’s minimum wage.

De-emphasizing degrees re-emphasizes people

Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn’s head of global talent acquisition, wrote in Fast Company that “hirers finding talent using skills are 60% more likely to find a successful hire than those who are not relying on skills” and that even changing the word requirements to responsibilities will get companies more than 14% more applications per view.

And de-emphasizing degree requirements in hiring levels the playing field for disenfranchised people, those who couldn’t afford college, and those who have been out of the workforce for personal reasons. As long as a candidate can speak to and provide proof of the skills needed, those can be developed anywhere—and put to good use at your company.

Hiring takes considerable investment from leaders – we know it can be tricky! It’s the core of our business as the go-to staffing partner on behalf of the graphic communications, printing, and packaging industries. When you need a partner to create a team that works, seek out Semper Workforce Solutions. We offer short and long-term direct hire and ready-to-work flex staffing solutions.

Register as a client today, or email us directly:

When you need to fill 1 or 100 permanent positions, PrintWorkers has job postings and resume packages sorted by skills and regions to fit your timeline and budget.