Employers increasingly want smarter workers and are filling positions traditionally held by high school graduates with applicants who have college degrees, according to a recent study.

The CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers found more than half require applicants to have a two-year associate's or higher, while 44 percent require a four-year degree or higher.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said many companies that regrouped during the recent economic downturn emerged with more technologies that have improved processes. As a result, they require better-trained workers.

"Even some companies that have laid off in the past have invested more in technology and are looking for new skill sets," Butler said recently.

The CareerBuilder survey found that nearly a third of managers are hiring college graduates to fill jobs historically held by high school graduates.

"While some of this may be attributed to a competitive job market that lends itself to college grads taking lower skill jobs, it also speaks to companies raising performance expectations for roles within their firms to enhance overall productivity, product quality and sales," Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America, said in releasing the study.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said hiring more educated workers results in a higher quality of work, while 45 percent cite an increase in productivity, and 22 percent report a gain in revenue.

The results present a challenge for workers who finish high school but don't further their education and doesn't bode well for students who opt not to even finish high school. Not only is unemployment highest for workers who haven't finished high school, pay is lowest for this group, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Anyone who drops out of high school or all they want is a high school (education) is going to have a hard time competing," Butler said.

(c)2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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