LinkedIn Big Ideas 2023

The job market of the future is all about skills

Here’s what four experts say is set to change
This article was originally published on LinkedIn and is reprinted with their permission. Aneesh Raman is the vice president, head of Opportunity Project at LinkedIn.

The end of the year is often a time for reflection. Reflection about the biggest changes in the year that’s past as well as the biggest changes in the year to come. 

I’m ending this year with a longer-term view, thinking about how many of the changes reshaping the world of work today are actually part of a much larger shift, one that’s been unfolding for years and is impacting not just labor markets but how all economies and societies function.

At the heart of this shift is skills, and the realization that we’ve been thinking about skills all wrong: overestimating skills for those who developed them through the traditional pathways like higher education, and underestimating skills for just about everyone else. 

This year, on LinkedIn, skills-first thinking has been on the rise. More and more employers are coming out in favor of looking at a person’s skills and eagerness to learn, instead of relying only on specific degrees or only hiring from a set pool of “top employers.” They’re doing that because it not only limits a hirer’s candidate pool but unnecessarily locks out a vast majority of the workforce who lack those credentials. 

On LinkedIn, we saw this happening in real-time across millions of job postings on our platform: roughly 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. now no longer require 4-year degrees, a 25% jump up from October of last year. And we realized it was taking hold among the thousands of employers using our platform to hire, with more than 40% of hirers now using skills data to fill open roles.

We even heard about it across thousands of LinkedIn newsfeed conversations: the number of feed posts about skills-first hiring topics roughly doubled in 2022 from 2021, a small but fast-growing dialogue. 

So as we look ahead to what’s coming next, it’s clear there’s momentum and energy for this shift today – but what will it take for the transition to a skills-first labor market to truly take hold across all sectors tomorrow? And how do we start to change more hearts and minds for the employers who are still on the outskirts, not yet convinced that the future of hiring is all about skills? 

To gain perspective, I turned to four leading experts to get their Big Ideas about this skills-first shift. Here’s their take on what’s coming next and why businesses still waiting on the sidelines need to make changes now, or risk being left behind. 

Maria Flynn, president & CEO, Jobs for the Future (JFF)

Skills-based hiring is gaining momentum, and for me there’s no doubt that it’s the future of hiring.

Some of the largest, most influential companies are embracing skills-based hiring and making it an integral part of the way they do business. They know that hiring people based on what they can do, not the degrees they’ve earned, gives them access to a much larger talent pool and makes it easier to find workers who have the skills they need.  And we now have the tools and technology businesses can use to adopt skills-based hiring at a much larger scale.”

Byron Auguste, co-founder & CEO, Opportunity@Work

“If there’s a war for talent it’s waged far too narrowly. 

Smart companies are removing unnecessary bachelor’s degree requirements and proactively tapping into the talents of 70+ million STARs – those U.S. workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes. In fact, Opportunity@Work‘s research reveals that over 4 million STARs are already in high-wage roles today and 32 million STARs have the skills and potential to earn at least 50% more than in their current jobs. Companies can innovate, adapt, and compete by creating STARs talent strategies. They can start simply by identifying new talent pools given skills similarities to in-demand jobs, to find smart ways to  ‘screen in’ for skills, and invest in STARs within their own organizations.”

Ya Xu, head of Data & AI at LinkedIn

“Creating a more equitable and efficient future of work is only possible if we can build a deeper understanding of peoples’ abilities and potential.

Making this leap towards prioritizing skills over pedigree will require employers and organizations to share strategies and work from the same skills playbook. LinkedIn’s Skills Graph will continue to play a big role in this shift by creating a common language around skills and how they power the global workforce. As this data gets smarter, we’ll be able to power skills-first initiatives across Linkedin more efficiently to help learners access content to advance their career, job seekers find that next perfect job, or recruiters find the ideal candidates to support their organizational needs.”

Elyse Rosenblum, founder and managing director at Grads of Life

“Skills-based hiring is one of the most powerful actions a company can take to expand economic opportunity and mobility. 

Grads of Life’s research shows that requiring a four-year degree is costly for businesses, and keeps millions of Americans – primarily underrepresented talent – from accessing good jobs. And organizations like Year Up have proven that these candidates are just as capable and are a critical source of talent for corporate America. Removing degree requirements is just the first step; as the movement grows, it is crucial that employers have the tools to equitably assess, hire and advance talent  – and the most successful companies will also invest in shifting mindsets and organizational culture to prioritize skills.”

It’s becoming more clear by the day that this is the start of a new era of work. These changes won’t happen overnight. Paradigm shifts never do. But as more and more of us come together around a shared belief in what’s possible right now, it’s clear that doing something truly world-changing – building a labor market that is more efficient and equitable than ever before – is actually possible in our time.