More companies skipping four-year degree requirement for hiring

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recent decision to eliminate the requirement for a four-year college degree for most state jobs is looking like it’s part of a popular trend. 

A recent survey by intelligent.com showed that more companies in the U.S. are making the same move. 

The website surveyed 1,000 hiring managers and found that 53% of them said their company has eliminated the requirement for a bachelor’s degree in the past year. 

Of those, 64% said that the reason they removed the requirement was to increase the number of applicants. 

Experience was favored over education by 76% of the hiring managers. 

Of course, training is still important and 77% of companies said they are either currently offering apprenticeships or plan to by the end of the year. 

A recent report by the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley showed that college enrollment is declining locally. Over the past ten years the number of area students entering college after high school dropped from 78% down to 67%.

Lehigh Valley has a job for everyone who wants one

Nancy Dischinat –

If employers in the Lehigh Valley want skilled workers, they may need to take on a bigger role in getting workers those skills. 

Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley gave that advice at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber Economic Outlook luncheon. 

“Recruitment should be aimed at school students,” Dischinat said. “Develop their skills and you earn their loyalty. Skill up your workforce and keep them on the job.” 

With Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate at about 4% right now, she said there are plenty of jobs to go around. 

Her organization is working to get those looking for jobs paired up with employers looking to hire. 

She noted that at 4% the number of people out of work in the Lehigh Valley is around 14,000 – roughly the same number of jobs available in the region. 

“There’s a job for every person in the Lehigh Valley. I’m not kidding,” she said. 

She pointed to the new Interactive Workforce Data Dashboard on the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley’s website that is available to the public and can serve as a one-stop-shop for employers looking for workforce data to plan their recruitment and training needs. 

Data presented by David Jan, a data scientist with the board, showed that training has become a larger issue, not just because of emerging skill requirements, but because less people are seeking a higher education on their own. 

Over the last 10 years college enrollment has dropped significantly. In 2011 78% of all high school students were enrolling in college. In 2021 that was down to 67%. 

He noted that decreasing enrollment in college may be a trend. He pointed to the recent executive order by Gov. Josh Shapiro that eliminated the requirement for a four-year degree for many state jobs. 

And Dischinat reminded employers that there is help for businesses that need help finding workers. 

“CareerLink is working as fast as they can to help meet companies’ workforce needs.” 

It’s not a labor shortage, it’s labor indifference, and workers are in control

The signs are everywhere. Some are even flags that blow in the breeze to grab attention.

Hiring. Sign on bonus.

Workers are in short supply and employers are pulling out all the stops to attract talent. Just drive around.

The question is why.

Local schools and county workforce and economic development organizations are working together to answer the question and find short and long-term solutions.

Some say it’s the extra unemployment payments that are keeping people home. Others offer that during the pandemic with child care facilities closed, families had to make the decision to live on one income. For many in the service industry, when jobs were lost, employees shifted gears and found new careers.

Adam Lazarchak, executive director of Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School, said he is seeing a lot of requests for workers. “They are reaching out directly to us more than normal.” But, he said, between the stimulus package and the increased unemployment payments, “It’s more lucrative (to stay home) than going to work.”

Dennis Hower, president of Teamsters Local 773, said the union only had a few people who didn’t come back after the COVID-19 shutdown. “We had people who left because of personal decisions,” he said. Most of those became one-income households because of child care.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., said the Education and Talent Supply Council, a partnership of schools, employers, economic development and workforce agencies, is working on solutions to the workforce shortage. The council grew out of an initiative that started in 2015 to address the strengths and weaknesses of the valley’s workforce.

“This is something we all share so we are working together and building our community because it is all of our goals,” said Dr. Andrea Grannum-Mosley, interim dean of workforce communication and technical education at Lehigh Carbon Community College.

Companies, she said, need to be more transparent about career growth in addition to wages and benefits to attract workers. Students that choose to continue their education know where they want to be in the workforce. Companies must compete with that, she said.

Working on the workforce

Responding to rising labor concerns, the state Department of Labor & Industry announced the launch of a free online job training program called SkillUp PA on August 14. The program will target Pennsylvania job seekers learn new skills to join the workforce or advance their career.

“This new virtual job training program is a true win-win for Pennsylvanians who need to enter the workforce or advance their career as well as the businesses who will get a new pipeline of the skilled workers they need to succeed,” said Sheila Ireland, deputy secretary for workforce development.

Yusuf Dahl, director of the Dyer Center at Lafayette College, said a new council, the Innovation Advisory, was formed this summer to align education with employer needs. While still in its infancy, Dahl said the council is looking at ways to link high performing students with employers earlier in their college careers.

“We need to redefine what is an essential worker post-COVID,” Grannum-Mosley said. “Where we thought (jobs) would grow didn’t. But others have.” Among the emerging jobs are manufacturing, trucking, HVAC, and electrical.

The increase in worker shortages is due, in part, to people who retired sooner than they planned because of the pandemic, Grannum-Mosley said. Younger workers, she said, who would have been interested in continuing their education “fell to the allure of $20-$25 an hour jobs.”

“We have never been busier with employers who are competing for workers” said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley. “PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley recruitment events, like Employer Wednesdays, which are single-employer job fairs, are booked into October 2021 and we increased recruitment fairs to Tuesdays and Thursdays.

”What employers are experiencing now is not a labor shortage, since the data shows that over 23,000 people are out of work and we currently have 6,800 jobs available,” she said, citing a customer survey conducted by PA CareerLink. “This indicates we have a labor indifference. However, many workers are not returning to their same job or industry, and many are choosing not to work.”

To see how lop-sided things are, consider this from Wendy Harris, director of post-secondary and workforce education at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute: “We have more requests for employees than we have students to fill the positions.” Last year it was hard to get students into plants due to safety issues, which caused a worker slowdown. Now, Harris expects students to be in high demand this fall.

Employers are hiring people with fewer skills and are willing to train them, Harris said. The school, which offers classes to high school students and adults in separate programs, said transportation, forklift operators and manufacturing are in high demand. In fact, she said, CDL drivers are almost guaranteed employment.

“Wages were increasing even before the pandemic, but we are seeing a pretty drastic jump in wages to make companies more competitive, especially in machining,” she said.

Grannum-Mosley agreed. “We are focused on quick start training so we can be proactive in delivery.” Instead of studying for two or three years, the school needed to redefine training that is short, portable degrees.

“You get more training on the job,” she said. ‘We partner with the companies that need workers and we go in and continue training for them.”

“For anyone who goes out to get a job, they will be successful,’ Lazarchak said. “While it’s hard for employers, it great for our students.”

“If they want to work, it’s a good time for employees,” Hower agreed.

State grants benefiting displaced workers to be announced by LV Workforce Board, community colleges

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry is offering a new grant to help displaced workers in the Lehigh Valley.

Workforce Board Lehigh Valley Executive Director Nancy Dischinat will be joined by the presidents of Northamption Community College and Lehigh Carbon Community College on at 1:30 p.m. July 8 at CareerLink Lehigh Valley, 555 Union Boulevard, Allentown to announce the details.

The “Near Completer Demonstration Project,” known in the Lehigh Valley as “Finish What You Start,” in the amount of $1.6 million, will enable workers to complete their degrees or credentials in high priority occupations that will lead to well-paying jobs and careers.

Pennsylvania ‘Near Completers’ program touted at LCCC

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier


Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier visited Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville Monday to promote a proposed job training program for “Near Completers.”

The $7 million program, which is part of Gov. Wolf’s Back to Work PA initiative, will help those who have become unemployed because of the COVID-19 virus complete their education and earn their degrees.

The Wolf Administration is calling for funding for the $3 billion Back to Work PA investment to come from a severance tax on natural gas extraction, a move which has failed to get legislative support in the past.

If funded, L&I’s new Near Completers program would assist Pennsylvanians with partially completed degrees or credentials in gaining the skills or training they need to get good jobs that pay family sustaining wages.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things about the world we live in, including the labor market,” said Berrier. “This Near Completers program is a great example of how Back to Work PA will make smart investments in the training and workforce development assistance programs that will help build a brighter future for Pennsylvania workers and their families.”

Pilot programs are expected to begin around the state this fall if Wolf’s funding proposal receives support.

To qualify for the pilot programs, job seekers must have been making less than $15 per hour before becoming unemployed.

“Lehigh Carbon Community College offers many opportunities for students to train for promising careers that feed directly into available jobs in the Lehigh Valley, with multiple options for funding,” said LCCC President Dr. Ann D. Bieber. “We work closely with employers throughout the area to ensure that students who come out of these programs can enter positions ready to work and earn family sustaining wages. From manufacturing to health care to construction and dozens more programs, the college has options that meet the needs of our local economy and offer jobs that pay.”

Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, added her support for the plan.

“Having the right training is one of the top credentials that makes a job seeker valuable and attractive to an employer,” said Dischinat. “Stackable credentials such as certificates, certifications, credentials and degrees can lead to increased income and promotion for employees. The pathway to employability and career growth is close to home here in the in the Lehigh Valley, as we connect workers with training providers to help them develop the skills they need to grow and thrive in careers.”

Workforce Board says job opportunities shifting, but work is available

Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, leads an online panel discussion on the region’s employment situation. –


Unemployment may be above 10% in the Lehigh Valley, but there are jobs to be had, said Nancy Dischinat, executive director Workforce Board Lehigh Valley.

The region’s jobs posting site, CareerLink Lehigh Valley has more than 6,000 listings right now and there are more than 123,000 job postings on Pennsylvania’s statewide CareerLink.

“Right now the Lehigh Valley can put 6,134 people back to work, but we need workers,” Dischinat said.

So why is unemployment so high – more than double the 4.5% it was at the end of last year? Dischinat said there are many factors, and the COVID-19 pandemic is at the center of them, causing fears of working outside the home and changes in childcare availability.

The pandemic-related closing of many industries – particularly in the hospitality field – has probably had the largest impact on employment. Many jobs were lost forever because of the pandemic, she said, but more jobs are becoming available every day. The current challenge is getting the people who need jobs the skills they need to fill the jobs that are available and on the horizon.

“We may have lost some jobs for good, but we have many new opportunities that are coming ahead,” said Sara DeSantis, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

She said that one of the challenges those in workforce development are facing is that many of the people being displaced by COVID-19 are longtime professionals of a particular industry that aren’t used to being on the job hunt.

“This maybe the first time they’re looking for a job in 20 years,” she said.

So outreach, she said, is vital right now.

The Workforce Board is concentrating on educating those needing work about the jobs that are available, the skills they need to land them and where and how they can get those skills to build a career.

The board launched a number of initiatives – many of them online — to help displaced workers find jobs and job skills, but Dischinat said one of the major new initiatives being launched involves in-person events with area employers.

Starting Oct. 28, the board will host Workforce Wednesdays at its offices on Union Boulevard in Allentown. The first participant will be Bakerly, a French bakery company that opened a baking facility for crepes and brioche rolls in Forks Township in 2017.

“Staffing is very difficult in the Lehigh Valley right now. It’s very competitive,” said Brian Regnier, chief financial officer at Bakerly. He’s hoping the hiring event will help his company find the 40 hourly and several salaried positions his company needs to fill.

Fed Ex and Nestle Waters will be the next participants in the Workforce Wednesdays.

But finding workers is only part of the puzzle, Dischinat said. Because many of the available jobs have new skill sets to those looking for jobs, the education component is key. And that means employers are having to step up to the training table. “The employers are becoming one of the primary training vendors that we have,” she said.

Morten Rasmussen, director of operations and human resources at B. Braun, a manufacturer of medical infusion systems in Bethlehem, said his company is helping workers with potential get the skills they need for careers at the company.

“We need people to fix machines. If you come out of high school and come here we’ll skill you up,” he said. “We need technical skills and we try to grow our own.”

Another effort is to establish a library of career pathways for each employer in the Lehigh Valley that educators can use to help young people find the right direction. “Every school is asking for this,” Dischinat said.

So where are the jobs? Gina Kormanik, business relations director for the board said health care remains the industry with the highest percentage of available jobs at 19%.

She said manufacturing is second at 11% of jobs available.

Retail, an industry that has been going through turmoil in recent months, remains a strong percentage of jobs at 10 percent.

Transportation and warehousing is a growing segment of the employment picture with 10% of the overall jobs available in that area.

Kormanik noted salaries are also on the upswing because of the competition for openings.

The average pay for a manufacturing job is currently $19.68 an hour, but Kormanik is seeing many manufacturers offering salaries as high as $25 to $26 an hour to attract top talent.