Irma Becerra is president of Marymount Universitya comprehensive doctoral-granting university known for its innovative curriculum.
From climate change to the digitization of healthcare, there is no shortage of significant challenges for the next generation of workers. Opportunities abound for those looking to make a difference in the rapidly evolving global job market. Knowledge workers who want to excel in today’s business world must bring their expertise and necessary skills to the workplace. Many job opportunities aimed at knowledge workers at today’s most sought-after companies require at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to entry-level positions.
Thousands of students in the past two years left the diploma track when employers offer substantial incomes with no degree requirements. Companies like General Motors, Google, Bank of America, IBM and Tesla have been the removal of requirements for a university degree of job descriptions that traditionally required them. However, beyond the personal benefits a professional can derive from earning his or her degree, there are multiple reasons why business leaders should consider getting behind and supporting employees who plan to complete their college education.
Organizations benefit from employees who follow a higher education.
Supporting employees who are determined to earn a college degree should be well worth the time, effort and money for companies. After all, there are numerous benefits that college-educated employees can bring to an organization. College offers plenty of growth opportunities, making employees who graduate better able to solve problems and critical thinking abilitywhich can lead to improved productivity and performance.
Another way these employees can make an important contribution to the workplace is through innovation and creativity: they bring with them the skills and knowledge needed to generate new ideas and find creative solutions to problems. Navigating life on a college campus allows highly skilled workers to quickly learn to assimilate and adapt to changing technologies, business models and market conditions. Overcoming complex coursework also lends itself to analytical skills, which can help employees make better decisions.
Another useful skill that can be acquired in college is strong communication and teamwork, which will enable your employees to work effectively with others. Collaboration is critical to business success, and communicating in a group give-and-take manner is practiced daily at the university.
A workforce of skilled employees can help a company attract customers and customers who value highly skilled and educated employees. Companies with a high percentage of highly educated employees also often have a stronger competitive advantage by being better equipped to adapt to changes in the business environment.
Create a culture of learning and growing.
Employers can create a learning culture to encourage employees to complete their education. There are many ways to motivate employees to go back to school and get their degree. Start by creating an environment where education is valued and employees are encouraged to pursue higher education. Company-wide communication is highly effective, and newsletters, websites, or information sessions can help employees understand the benefits of higher education and the options available.
There is power in leading by example, so consider encouraging senior leadership and managers to continue their own education. Promote career opportunities available to employees who have completed a college degree. Employers can also provide professional development opportunities to help employees gain new skills and knowledge and prepare them for senior positions. Peer recognition for employees who have a college degree can help motivate and encourage other employees to pursue higher education.
What are concrete ways to help employees earn a degree?
Companies can offer tuition waiver to encourage employees to complete their college education. By paying part or all of their employees’ tuition costs, college can be made possible for people with limited financial resources. In 2018, the Society for Human Resource Management said only 4% of US companies tuition reimbursement offered as an employee benefit. However, it’s worth noting that recent legislation provides incentives for employers to repay employee student loan debt, and during and since the pandemic, tuition has become a more popular offering among companies. Employers can provide up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursements, and an employee can benefit from having the amount written off as tax-free income.
Cost aside, it is essential to schedule time to attend classes. Some companies allow employees to take a sabbatical, which can be used to jumpstart a college education. Employees can take classes and study while fulfilling their work obligations when companies allow flexible schedules. Establishing a mentoring program can be helpful for employees who are dealing with the many demands of school and work at the same time.
Help your employees realize the American dream.
For first-generation and minority students today, there are numerous obstacles to earning a degree. Many students also faced Covid-19 related health issues, while others lost precious family members to the disease. From the need to support their families financially to struggling with ongoing Covid-19-related mental and physical health issues, it’s no wonder millions of students failed to return to college in the fall of 2020.
For employees who have dropped out of college for any reason, help them understand that earning a degree is a step toward prosperity, excellent job opportunities, and personal growth. Helping to make university education accessible to all can bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Whether it’s a bull or bear economy, a college degree puts middle-class mobility at the fingertips of every citizen. As an immigrant and a first-generation college graduate, I can definitely attest that my American Dream began on a college campus decades ago!