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In a tight labor market, businesses debut on-the-job training and drop college degree requirements

Posted by Neha De

December 7, 2021    |     4-minute read (775 words)

As companies sign up for a hiring race for top talent while emerging from the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are rethinking a basic requirement in their search for skilled employees: the college degree. Apple CEO Tim Cook is of the opinion that there is often “a mismatch between the skills learned in college and the skills that businesses need, especially when it comes to coding.” 

Cook is not the only one. According to research by Glassdoor, organizations such as Google, Penguin Random House, IBM, Whole Foods, Starbucks and Hilton are some of the other corporations that have said “they do not require a college diploma for some of their top jobs.” 

Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton, who is also a member of the White House's American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, says, “All too often, job requisitions will say they require a four-year degree, when in fact there's nothing about the job that truly requires a four-year degree — it merely helped our hiring managers sort of weed through the crowd and get a smaller qualified candidate group."

Colleges are no longer the only places for accessing knowledge, skills and a network. The internet, social media and online learning have made sure of that. In fact, forward-thinking organizations are not just waiving college degree requirements, they are taking matters into their own hands by providing education and training in order to recruit and upskill promising workers.

For instance, following the COVID-19 pandemic, Infosys has brought together a consortium of partners to “not just to establish employer-employee connects, but to spot talent with the right adjacent skills, rapidly reskill this alternate workforce, and help employers simultaneously hire them so they can integrate the learning with the context of their jobs and be more productive.”

Early this year, L​inkedIn launched Skillpath, which is a skills-based hiring program that aims to connect employers and prospective job seekers by identifying the core skills for open roles and then matching qualified candidates to those roles. According to LinkedIn, “We believe that by taking a skills-based approach to opportunity we can remove barriers for candidates that might not have the degree or network, while also increasing the size of employer talent pools, often letting them pinpoint quality applicants for hard-to-fill roles.” 

Why employers should be open to ditching college degree requirements when hiring

Check out these four top reasons why companies should focus more on skills instead of degrees:

  1. Reinforces diversity of thought – By opening the application process to all candidates, businesses can employ more people with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Having workers from diverse frameworks and perspectives can help them create better, more authentic products and services. Diversity of thoughts, ideas, beliefs and backgrounds can make any organization stronger, and this can begin with something as basic as changing the educational requirements for future job listings. 

  2. Eliminates redundant barriers for job applicants – According to research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollments dropped by 6.8% in 2020. This is more than quadruple the pre-pandemic rate of decline, especially among students of color from low-income communities. For many people, a college education is often more suggestive of access than aptitude. 
  3. Even in 2021, many Americans face countless barriers and discrimination because of their sexuality, ethnicity or economic class. Therefore, employers need to look beyond college degrees and focus more on the life skills of applicants. By eliminating the requirement for a college education for job seekers, they can open the door to highly skilled and highly capable candidates who simply may not have had the opportunity, means or financial backing required to obtain a college degree.
  1. Makes it easier for companies to find skilled applicants –It has become increasingly difficult for people to find jobs without bachelor’s degrees, especially when it comes to achieving upward job mobility. Despite that, 83% of HR professionals reported difficulty recruiting, according to research by SHRM
  2. Now, with about 10.4 million open positions in the U.S. alone, businesses may need to turn to candidates they might not have even considered in the past.
  1. Recognizes other ways of gaining experience - A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed that only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major. This highlights the importance of past experience compared to what the individual studied in college. Since “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist,” according to the World Economic Forum, it is crucial that companies are open to hiring workers who can adapt to new systems and ways of thinking.

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