Alternative Education Pathways Report

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Report overview

Key Findings

Making decisions about jobs and careers means choosing a path for training and education. While most high school graduates choose to attend college every year, there are other options (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). In September 2021, we collected feedback from 2,410 adults belonging to the general public and 1,000 business leaders in the U.S. This report presents our findings related to their perceptions of multiple paths to employment training and preparation — such as technical and vocational programs, apprenticeships, bootcamps, and college — in the context of employment and career development.

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Education and Training Choices

  • A majority of U.S. adults, including those with college experience, agreed that alternative education pathways provide a good return on investment.
  • Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Americans with work experience believed their educational path has been valuable.
  • However, 61% of Americans with work experience said they would choose a different education and training path if they could go back and do it again.
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Employee Skill Development

  • The primary source for education and training for those without college experience is their employer (45%).
  • Less than half (43%) of business leaders said that their company or organization provides on-the-job training and training programs for people new to the work. And roughly 1 in 5 or less are involved in activities such as providing internships (21%), sponsoring apprenticeships (16%), or partnering with colleges (13%) or technical schools (14%).
  • Only 40% of business leaders said that college graduates are prepared to succeed in their first job after graduation; however, 60% said a college degree is important for long-term career success.
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The Future of Workforce Training and Education

  • Eighty-one percent of business leaders and 55% of the general public agreed that alternative education pathways will play a pivotal role in future workforce training.
  • Eighty-five percent of business leaders agreed that alternative education pathways could play a role in resolving current workforce gaps.
  • Eighty-five percent of business leaders thought that alternative education pathways are a viable alternative to college, and 64% said employers should remove some current college degree hiring requirements.

Our Research Methodology

We help make sense of the latest trends through our propriety research, data analysis, and expert insights. Our Trends Reports, Survey Reports, and Data Reports explore pressing issues, such as online learning, student demographics, and the rising cost of college.

Meet the Author

Portrait of Melissa A. Venable

Melissa A. Venable


Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D., is an online education advisor for BestColleges. In this role, she leads this annual survey research project reporting online education trends found through student and school administrator feedback. Melissa is an adjunct faculty member and course designer at Saint Leo University and a certified career coach with a background in career development services. She earned her doctorate in instructional technology at the University of South Florida where her research interests focused on distance education and support services for online students.

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