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Skills vs. college degree: The conflict is about to end.

 

A four-year degree has long been declared necessary to get ahead in the United States. But that may not be the case for much longer. 


General Motors recently announced that it will remove degree requirements from jobs unless they are absolutely necessary.

Prioritizing skills over a college education avoids an unnecessary barrier to diversity in the workplace, Telva McGruder, the company’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, told Fortune’s Phil Wahba.

According to a survey conducted by the non-profit Lumina Foundation, there is a 20% difference between white and black Americans who graduated from college in 2018. Additionally, rising tuition (over 500% since the 1980s) is making it even harder to graduate—not to mention the student debt crisis. 
Engineering is ‘wow’ and highly rated. I have one myself, “said McGruder. “But that may not be an indicator of all potential.” 


This emphasis on potential is exactly why GM and many other Fortune 500 companies are departure Google, EY, Okta, Penguin Random House, Microsoft, and Apple have all started offering senior roles to candidates without a degree to attract talent in a tight job market. 


This shift in mindset opens doors to new opportunities for marginalised groups and migrant workers in today’s remote work world.

That could make jobs more accessible to workers who don’t live in the United States, as experts predict remote jobs may soon be largely outsourced. But it could also make job openings for high-demand positions more competitive, meaning that in the age of the Great Gap, job seekers can expect fewer opportunities as more people compete for a narrow pool of open roles. 

right skills


Fewer Requirements, More Candidates 


A study of degree requirements by Harvard Business School and Emsi’s Burning Glass found that between 2017 and 2020, only 29% of IBM roles and 26% of Accenture roles required a college degree.

In 2016, Accenture launched an apprenticeship programme with the goal of bringing in employees without a formal degree (80 percent of the program’s potential hires do not have a college degree). 


“A person’s educational credentials are not the only indicator of success, so we’ve evolved our approach to recruiting to focus on skills, experience, and potential,” Accenture North America CEO Jimmy Etheredge told CNBC. 


But a four-year degree is still largely a yardstick for measuring an applicant’s skills and qualifications, Sean Gallagher, a professor of education policy at Northeastern University, told Fortune.

“We believe, based on our research, that a large part of the reason training has increased over the years is because of the evolution of the nature of the work and the skills required,” he said. 


However, he adds that this does not mean that employers do not understand that a bachelor’s degree necessarily means importance for the job. 
If a college degree no longer becomes mandatory for white-collar workers, many other rigorous requirements could die out, Sean Martin, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, told Fortune.

This could include previous experience or specific skills that can be learned during the first few weeks on the job – either through a boot camp or an internship programme like Accenture. 


“Companies themselves are missing out on people who, according to research, may be less entitled, more culturally sensitive, and more prepared,” Martin said.

He added that instead of pedigree, hiring managers should look for motivation and a willingness to learn and adapt—two qualities you can’t find on paper.

Source: Fortune

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