Why You Aren’t Hiring the Employees You Want

By: Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab and Joshua Rudolph; The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice

Talks of a labor shortage started around May of 2021. If you’re looking to hire, especially for middle-skills positions, you’ve likely spent some time looking. But people are looking for jobs. If companies are looking to hire, and people are looking for jobs, why aren’t people getting hired?

Let’s talk about the obvious first. People aren’t taking low paying jobs like they used to before COVID. The federal minimum wage isn’t enough to live in most areas. Some people stopped taking low paying jobs because of the costs associated. If childcare, transportation, and other factors set you back to what you’d have before working, there’s no reason for you to take that job. It seems COVID brought that to people’s attention. So, they’re looking for higher paying jobs.

Some employers say they face a lack of qualified candidates. Harvard Business School’s Dismissed by Degrees report suggests the problem isn’t a lack of qualified candidates, but a failure by companies to consider the right candidates. Companies filter out applications from associate degree holders, even when they have the same skills as bachelor’s degree holders. Job sites like Indeed make the filtering process virtually thoughtless.

Alongside that, 60% of community college students don’t get to finish their degrees. That 60% represents lost opportunities for both students and companies that want qualified candidates. Here at The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice; we know that students aren’t failing to finish because they’re unmotivated. It’s because they struggle to meet their basic needs.

The problem is simple: Companies aren’t connecting with qualified, and potentially qualified candidates.

The Solution — Get #RealCollege Ready

The #RealCollege movement brings attention to the real needs of today’s college students. The response to our 2019 #RealCollege Survey showed that 39% of students experienced food insecurity in the last thirty days. As our president Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab once said, “It’s awfully hard to graduate from college if you haven’t had anything to eat.”

We find that students in two-year public programs are often underfed, underhoused, and under enormous stress. The 60% who didn’t make it yet would have a much easier time if they had something to eat.

We’re suggesting that companies can hire more candidates, specifically more qualified candidates, by recognizing the needs and skills of #RealCollege students. Get #RealCollege ready, and you’ll get hires.

How to Get #RealCollege Ready by working with #RealCollege students.

See them, support them, sign them.

  • Create positions for enrolled #RealCollege students. Make part-time positions for college students with stable hours, reliable work, and decent pay. That’s enough to help most #RealCollege graduate. A higher number of qualified candidates means more chances to find someone that fits.
  • Re-think experience requirements. Experience requirements may inequitably filter out people who cannot afford to intern for free in college, often those with low income. Instead, filter by skills or use skill-tests available on job sites like Indeed.
  • Work with community colleges to find and create hires. Make connections with community colleges in your area. Create programs to train students in the skills they need to get hired at your company. It works for Boeing.
  • Hire #RealCollege students. They’ve got the experience and talent to fill your positions.

Who’s #RealCollege ready?

Here’s a short list of companies with #RealCollege ready programs or initiatives to provide inspiration to your company.

Apple’s App Development with Swift course helps bridge the skill gap that community college grads may face. The hands-on course helps associate degree holders get the hard skills they need in the digital age. Not to mention, it helps students to get “Apple” on their resume.

IBM works with several community colleges to offer internships and apprenticeships at IBM hubs. They provide training for tech jobs that don’t require four-year degrees.

Sheetz provides scholarship opportunities not only to their employees, but to the children and stepchildren of employees. Helping #RealCollege students can also mean helping the people that support them.

Sheetz also says they aim to offer hourly wages in the 90th percentile with other employers. The simplest thing you can do to get #RealCollege ready is pay student workers more.

Wegmans supports #RealCollege students through scholarship programs and college partner programs. The Wegmans Scholarship program provides funding for any college program, meaning students in liberal arts programs get the same chance at funding as do their business school counterparts.

Colleges tailor work-study positions to the needs of students, so these jobs provide a good benchmark for working students’ needs. Work-study jobs give students consistent schedules with a maximum of hours they can work, making sure students never overwork themselves to keep a job.

Work-study positions typically let students make use of their down-time. While other jobs may push employees to find something to do through the entire shift (the “time-to-lean-time-to-clean” mentality), many work-study positions allow students to do homework or study when work is slow. Even 15 minutes to do homework might give a student time to prepare a meal after work, rather than having to spend more money to buy one.

It’s simple. Get #RealCollege ready and get your positions filled.

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice is an action research center transforming higher education into a more effective, equitable, and impactful sector using a powerful combination of applied scientific research, technical assistance to colleges and universities, policy advising with state and federal governments, and strategic communications. We believe that students are humans first and that their basic needs are central conditions for learning. We are redefining what it means to be a student-ready college with a national movement centering #RealCollege students’ basic needs.

#RealCollege students, presidents, educators, and more will lend their voices here with support from The Hope Center and Believe in Students.