Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with SKILL TRAINING, EDUCATION, LEARNING, ABILITY, KNOWLEDGE and COMPETENCE words imprinted on metal surface

Hiring for Skills Rather than Degrees is a Movement, and It’s Growing

In just the past few months, the idea that companies should hire workers based on the skills they have, rather than the degrees they hold, has picked up significant momentum.

Last September, Opportunity@Work (a Calbright partner) launched a major campaign in September, called “The Paper Ceiling,” pointing out that half the American workforce – 70 million people – doesn’t have a bachelor degree, but many of them have exactly the skills and talents that companies are looking for. Companies that don’t hire from this pool are cutting themselves off from talent they desperately need.

It’s clear that this is starting to sink in with employers.

In October, the CEO of LinkedIn wrote a column for CNN saying that companies hiring for skills rather than degrees is a real – and positive – development. 

In December, the Wall Street Journal ran an article saying that companies as diverse as Google and Delta Airlines, and states like Maryland,“have reduced educational requirements” and “shifted hiring to focus more on skills and experience.”

And, a recent report from JFF (Jobs For the Future), signaled that employers across the country are shifting their thinking on hiring, finding that 81% of employers now think they should be hiring based on the skills someone has, rather than the degree they were awarded; and 68% think they should be hiring graduates of programs that don’t even award degrees, as long as the students learn the right skills.

Most recently at the end of January, the New York Times ran an editorial headlined “See Workers as Workers, Not as a College Credential.”

The editorial was prompted by the decision of Josh Shapiro, the governor of Pennsylvania, to issue an executive order eliminating the requirement of a four-year college degree for most jobs in the state government. 

“This demonstrates both good policy and good leadership,” the Times wrote, “representing a concrete change in hiring philosophy that stops reducing people to a credential and conveys that everyone — college-educated or not — has experience and worth that employers should consider. It is a step — and a mind-set — that other leaders should consider as well.”

Today major mainstream publications, successful businesses in multiple sectors, and three state governments, all agree:  hiring workers for skills rather than degrees makes sense for everyone.  

Studies have already shown that getting a non-degree certificate that demonstrates skills can have a big career benefit.  As more companies shift to hiring for expertise, the benefits of non-degree certificates in high-demand fields is only going to increase.

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