It’s getting easier to land a six-figure job—without a four-year degree

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Welcome to Worksheet, a newsletter about how people are working smarter in these turbulent times.

Every week, this newsletter will share analysis on the state of work by S. Mitra Kalita, a veteran media executive, author, and journalist.

In this week’s edition, Kalita looks at new ways big companies are recruiting young employees—and bypassing higher ed.


There’s a formula to white-collar work: K-12 schools, then four years of college, maybe grad school and finally comes The Job. 

Even before COVID, that sequence was being upended by companies like IBM that set up training and technical schools around the world with the promise of work and apprenticeship for teens upon completion. 

Now, as broader economic trends take hold in a pandemic economy, such pipelines are growing and pathways into work becoming even less linear. So it’s no longer school-to-work as much as school-AND-work.

“How isolated our systems are,” noted Grace Suh, IBM’s vice president for education. “You go to K-12, you go to college, you go to industry. The most vulnerable fall between those gaps. Education is empowerment, and we know it’s a lever for participation in the economy. We know a high-school diploma is not enough. … We’re asking more of employers to get you the skills and credentials you actually need.”

In 2011, IBM began the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, better known as P-TECH, in Brooklyn, New York. Today, the program is in 11 states in the U.S. and 28 countries. 


Kalita interviews 20-year old P-TECH grad Shekinah Griffith. Her parents, immigrants from Guyana, both have their PhDs and ask their daughter often about going back to school. But why would she? Griffith just scored a full-time job at IBM.

Read her full column here.

Wondering what else the future of work holds? Visit Fortune‘s Smarter Working hub presented by Future Forum by Slack.

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