Answered by Tom, Hiring Expert at VF Corporation, on Friday, September 2, 2016
Sorry to read about your challenges here. Your experience is not uncommon, but I can also share with you that there are many employers who don't have such requirements. I've been with several employers in my career and know of many others where members of the most senior leadership team and even CEOs who do not have formal degrees. Outside of very specialized jobs that essentially require degrees by default (ex. doctors, lawyers, etc.) there are generally two reasons employers have the degree requirement: 1) the employer assumes a certain amount of skill, knowledge, discipline, and work ethic just because one pursued and obtained the degree 2) the employer gets a high volume of candidates for their jobs and having a degree or not, is an easy knockout...if I have plenty of candidates, I'd rather select one with a degree than not. For what it's worth, I don't agree strongly with either one, but it is often the reality.
So what can you do? Well, most labor markets have shifted where there are less and less qualified candidates for jobs, so employers are being forced to reconsider there requirements, including education. Having the degree will become less important than having the actual knowledge and skill, regardless of where it comes from. Additionally, as you noted, a formal education just keeps getting more and more expensive, there is already not enough graduates to meet the demand and that should continue. Keep working hard and learning on the job. Take advantage of any and all on the job training you can get and consider obtaining certifications that are often more important than a degree. For example, I am fairly certain that there are many safety certifications one can get that are not taught in a 2-yr or 4-yr college and don't require a degree to obtain. Additionally, continue to focus on gaining more and more experience both within the scope of your current job and outside of it. Volunteer for project teams, participate in company events, volunteer in the community, etc. these are all experiences that will help you get noticed by your current employer and/or experiences you can talk to a future employer about.
Best of luck!