Majority of Americans Believe Employers Should Hire Skilled Workers Without Degrees, But Say Employers Lag Behind in Doing So

Strada Education Network’s latest Public Viewpoint research highlights widespread belief that when it comes to career, skills and experience should take precedence over formal credentials—and that Americans highly value employers who will support their education and career development.

INDIANAPOLIS — February 24, 2021 — Strada Education Network, a social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging pathways between education and employment, has released new findings from nationally representative surveys examining public perceptions on employer practices and responsibilities regarding training, hiring, and talent development.  

Seven in 10 Americans believe employers should hire job candidates who have the required skills and work experience, even if they don’t have a college degree. However, less than half of Americans say employers in their field are actually willing to hire skilled workers without degrees. Further, Black Americans and Latinos (37 percent) are more likely to believe the country’s hiring and advancement systems are unfair compared to white Americans (24 percent).  

“Amid the jobs recovery, workers of color and those without college degrees are most at risk of long-term joblessness,” said Dave Clayton of Strada’s Center for Education Consumer Insights. “Our research consistently indicates that employer connection to reskilling, upskilling, and hiring is highly valued by individuals considering whether or not to pursue additional education and training.”

Both workers and employers say skills and work experience are more important for hiring and advancement, with 86 percent of workers saying they are very important factors for getting a raise, promotion, or new job, compared to 63 percent who say formal education factors, including credential and field of study, are very important. Employers report even less emphasis on formal markers of education, with only 24 percent saying such factors are very important in hiring a new employee, as opposed to 89 percent who say skills and work experience are.

Americans are looking for employers who will support their education and career development, with 3 in 5 agreeing that they would be more likely to accept a job offer or stay with an employer that does.  And 2 in 5 Americans say they best learn the skills they need to succeed at work when their employer is involved, either directly providing education and training or doing so through partnerships with colleges. However, a substantial proportion (27 percent) prefer to learn such skills on their own, with those without college degrees especially likely to prefer learning on their own (31 percent) or through alternative training providers (21 percent). 

Importantly, regardless of educational attainment, Americans believe funding for education and training should be a shared responsibility — on average, saying that individuals and their families should pay for 35 percent of the costs; state and federal governments should fund 35 percent; and employers should cover 30 percent. 

The new findings come from Strada’s Public Viewpoint, a nationally representative survey tracking the impact of the pandemic, as well as the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey and the Strada-Gallup Employer Survey.  The Public Viewpoint survey was fielded by Heart+Mind Strategies regularly from March 2020-January 2021. The Education Consumer Survey was fielded by Gallup, Inc. from April 2020-Dec 2020. The surveys were designed and commissioned by Strada Education Network’s Center for Education Consumer Insights, a research team that studies the experiences and perceptions of American adults in order to inform the development of a more learner-centered ecosystem. The center provides the nation’s largest education consumer database, which includes more than 350,000 completed surveys about the education and work experiences of American adults. View the full Public Viewpoint findings at:




About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a new kind of social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy, mission-aligned investments and a network of affiliate organizations. Together, we work to better serve the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at