How to Help Businesses Look Beyond Four-Year Degrees to Find the Best Job Candidates
Within the last two years, the U.K. divisions of publishing company Penguin Random House and consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) announced having a university degree was no longer a requirement when applying for a job. For EY, the decision came after an internal 18-month study of 400 employees that uncovered little evidence academic success related to how well new hires performed on the job. By removing this requirement, it also widens their candidate pool. However, this line of thinking seems slow to catch on in the United States, where most companies are locked into the belief that only candidates with four-year degrees have something to offer and students are afraid to challenge the norm. It’s time to change the conversation.
The Third Degree
Here’s what we know: there is a significant discrepancy between the skills students are graduating with and the skills employers want. This combination produces frustrated, unemployed grads with hefty student loan payments and many unfilled positions, which cost companies $160 billion annually. This is where the idea of a third option—competency-based education programs come into play to counter the idea of traditional associate and bachelor’s degrees. CBE programs are desirable for a couple of key reasons:
- Affordability – Since students pay only for the classes they need, there’s less debt.
- Focuses on the learner – The self-paced nature of CBE allows learners to respond quicker to career opportunities and workforce trends. For example, the 348,000 home-health-aide jobs that are expected to be added by 2024.
According to a WashintonPost.com article, analysts are already projecting that by 2020, more than 500,000 students will be enrolled in a competency-based program. These are figures businesses simply can’t ignore and educational institutions need to be leveraging.
Creating Diverse Job Candidates
Companies are beginning to realize diversity and inclusion are good for business. Research has shown more diverse companies are more likely to outperform competitors. But this can’t happen if businesses continue to hire grads with the same four-year degree qualifications. So, what needs to happen?
First, businesses must buy-in to the value of micro-credentials from competency-based programs. Because when businesses show they have the confidence in these credentials (and by extension the students taking them), it stands to reason more students will start taking advantage of CBE programs because they know companies take them seriously. To help get businesses on board with CBE, college and universities need to collaborate with them to identify specific job skills and requirements and ensure that these micro-credentials align with skills employers are looking for. Once these interests are aligned, the chances of a student with micro-credentials landing a job should increase significantly. After all, CBE is more than just filling job positions. It’s about helping those who want a better life find it through the educational medium that works best for him or her.
Share in the comments what steps your institution is taking so companies can understand the value of hiring a CBE graduate.
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