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Companies move to drop college degree requirements for new hires, focus on skills

Published: 08/12/2022

A new study shows employers are ending college degree requirements for many job openings, focusing instead on skills, experience, and personality traits. The sea change opens up tech jobs to a more diverse pool of candidates.
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At Google, a four-year degree is not required for almost any role at the company — and a computer science degree isn't required for most software engineering or product manager positions. “Our focus is on demonstrated skills and experience, and this can come through degrees or it can come through relevant experience,” said Tom Dewaele, Google’s vice president of People Experience.

Similarly, Bank of America has refocused its hiring efforts on a skills-based approach. “We recognize that prospective talent think they need a degree to work for us, but that is not the case,” said Christie Gragnani-Woods, a Bank of America Global Talent Acquisition executive. “We are dedicated to recruiting from a diverse talent pool to provide an equal opportunity for all to find careers in financial services, including those that don’t require a degree.”

[ What is digital employee experience? A key worker retention tool ]

Google and Bank of America are not alone, not by a long shot. Driven by a dearth of talent due to record low unemployment rates, tech companies and others are dropping the age-old sheepskin requirement and focusing instead on job-related skills, experience, and even personality traits.

In June, General Motors became the latest company to join Google, Bank of America, IBM and Tesla by removing a college degree requirement from some job roles that had previously required it.

While some fields will still mandate academic qualifications, including the medical and legal professions, many more opportunities are now accessible to people without a degree, particularly in tech, according to new research by global HR and payroll services company, Remote.

Skills-based hiring on the rise

Remote's study found that skills-based hiring is up 63% in the past year as more employers value experience over academic qualifications. In addition to giving employers a competitive edge by opening up the talent pool, the change is helping to remove career and salary barriers for over two-thirds of adults who do not have a Bachelor’s degree in the United States, the study concluded.

Remote's study is not alone. Forty-five percent of organizations report using a skills
framework to provide structure around recruiting and developing their tech workforces; another 36% are exploring the idea, according to CompTIA, a nonprofit association for the IT industry and its workers.

“Rather than using a candidate’s level of formal education as the sole indicator of how they will perform in a position, we instead suggest removing degree requirements wherever possible and taking a more holistic approach to recruitment, which involves considering their potential, life experiences, teachability, adaptability and resilience,” said Remote CEO Job van der Voort.

By eliminating unnecessary and outdated degree requirements, employers open themselves up to a larger talent pool of would-be hires  with skills learned through on-the-job training, boot camps, and certificate programs. “This creates greater diversity and engenders a more creative culture, leading to improved problem solving and idea generation, as well as facilitating skills and knowledge sharing,” van der Voort said.

For example, tech bootcamp graduates, including coding bootcamps, report quickly finding full-time jobs, a quick return on their educatioanl investment, higher salaries, and better STEM career opportunities. That's according to a recent survey of 3,800 US graduates of university  bootcamps by US tech education platform company 2U and Gallup.

CompTIA's study called out former IBM CEO Virginia Rometty for noting, “cloud, cybersecurity, financial operations and many healthcare jobs can all begin without a four-year degree, and many applicants may choose to get more education later on." 

Read More:Computerworld

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