Businessman on virtual computer screen click on skills on blurred background.

More and More Employers Are Hiring for Skills, Not Degrees

Here at Calbright we’ve spent years pointing out that a growing number of employers are hiring on the basis of the skills workers have instead of the university degrees they’ve earned. 

Now the Wall Street Journal is picking up on the trend too, writing that “The tight labor market is prompting more employers to eliminate one of the biggest requirements for many higher-paying jobs: the need for a college degree.”

It’s not just a single industry, the Journal points out: companies as diverse as Google and Delta Air Lines and governments like the state of Maryland “have reduced educational requirements” and “shifted hiring to focus more on skills and experience.”

The more success companies experience hiring on the basis of skills rather than degrees — and early reports are promising — the more employers are going to adopt the practice. It’s picking up speed.

This is good for companies, and good for the economy as a whole, but it’s especially good for workers, and a welcome and critical evolution in the dynamics of the labor market. Degree requirements were originally intended to help measure what people know, but over time have increasingly been used to keep people out – serving as a gatekeeper instead of an entryway.

“Even though education is supposed to open up doors and windows of opportunity, they have, in some ways, become a means of closing off opportunity,” Nicole Smith, the chief economist at the Georgetown center, told the Wall Street Journal.

Opportunity@Work, a Calbright partner organization, calls this “The Paper Ceiling” – millions of people who have the skills employers are looking for can’t get a better job, and the higher education degree that is required isn’t necessary to functionally do the work. . This is especially true of traditionally disenfranchised BIPOC groups for whom higher education was often inaccessible.  

The Calbright Model is an alternative. Instead of going into debt to go to a school that doesn’t fit their lives, Calbright offers students free college level workforce training programs that prepare learners to earn certifications in good paying fields like IT support, Cybersecurity, and CRM platform administration. Classes are online and can be taken at the student’s convenience, whether that’s first thing in the morning, late at night, or between family and work responsibilities. Students work at their own pace, and the College’s competency-based curriculum allows them to move ahead  on the basis of what they know and learn, as opposed to hours spent in a classroom. 

Calbright is a free online community college for Californians that is reimagining college, and we’re confident that the more employers realize that skills are more important than degrees, the more non-traditional students will take advantage of this opportunity. 

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