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Companies are eliminating the requirement for a college degree to attract needed workers

The tech industry has been plagued by a chronic talent shortage for years. Some estimates show that there are now over 450,000 jobs open in cybersecurity.

This situation has worsened further as the gap between available positions and those seeking new jobs has widened further. There were 11.27 million job vacancies in February, compared to 6.27 million counted as unemployed, leaving a record 5 million more job openings than available workers, according to the vacancies survey. employment and labor turnover.

Solutions to eliminate this imbalance between supply and demand include upskilling and reskilling existing employees, faster background checks (particularly onerous for public sector jobs), and recruiting workers from other sectors.

Today, many companies are trying something new: eliminating educational requirements for jobs.

A growing number of companies, many in technology, are abandoning bachelor’s degree requirements for many mid-skill and even higher-skill positions, according to a recent study by Harvard Business Review and Emsi Burning Glass. a leader in labor market data. the society. More than 51 million jobs posted between 2017 and 2020 were analyzed for the study.

This reverses the trend of so-called “degree inflation” that accelerated after the Great Recession, where many employers began adding degree requirements to job descriptions that previously did not require them. even though the actual jobs had not changed.

Instead of requiring a four-year degree, many companies instead focus on skills-based hiring to expand the talent pool.

For example, the study looked at job postings at a number of different companies for the position of software quality assurance engineer. He revealed that only 26% of Accenture job postings contained a degree requirement. At IBM, only 29% have done so.

In fact, 50% of IBM job openings in the United States don’t require a four-year degree, according to Nickle LaMoreaux, the company’s director of human resources.

Even the US government is rethinking its approach. In January 2021, the White House announced limits on the use of education requirements when hiring for IT positions. Focusing primarily on college degrees “excludes capable applicants and undermines labor market efficiency,” the executive order states.

Skills and experience matter

If a four-year degree is less likely to be the first hurdle to clear, what are companies looking for? It turns out that many rely more on demonstrated skills and competencies.

Accenture launched an apprenticeship program in 2016 and has since hired 1,200 people, 80% of whom joined the company without a four-year degree. Earlier this year, it expanded the program with the aim of filling 20% ​​of its entry-level positions in the United States – from application development and cybersecurity to cloud and platform engineering – from learnings.

“A person’s credentials aren’t the only indicators of success, so we’ve evolved our approach to hiring to focus on skills, experiences and potential,” said Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America. North. The program, launched in Chicago, has since expanded to more than 35 US cities.

Okta, a company that provides tools for secure access to business applications, last year removed the college degree requirement for a number of its sales positions in order to gain access to a larger pool of talent. large. The company now focuses on “motivation, skills and experience,” says Rachele Zamani, who leads Okta’s business development associate program.

To attract the talent it needs, Dell Technologies last year broadened its definition of college recruiting and developed a program focused on community college hiring. Jennifer Newbill, director of emerging talent at Dell, says the company’s goal is to redefine what it considers recent graduate talent to include associate degrees, apprenticeships and certificate programs.

“We are always looking for ways to bring broad and diverse perspectives to our workforce,” she says. So far, graduates hired under this expanded program work in cybersecurity, engineering, technical support, technical sales and marketing.

Christie Gragnani-Woods, senior vice president of external community partnerships at Bank of America, says the company no longer requires college degrees for the majority of its entry-level jobs. To further expand its talent pool, the company launched its Pathway program in 2018. It works with nonprofits and community colleges with the goal of hiring 10,000 people from low- and middle-income neighborhoods. ‘by 2023. The bank surpassed that number two years later. schedule and has committed to hiring an additional 10,000 people by 2025.

The program allows the bank to “go out into the community and emphasize that you don’t need a degree to earn a sustainable salary and have long-term career potential,” she says. Instead, hiring managers focus on the specific skills needed to succeed in a job, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with a four-year degree. People hired through the program, says Gragnani-Woods, work across the bank in sales, operations and software development.

Businesses have long used a college degree as an indicator of professional competence and career readiness. The Covid-19 pandemic labor shortage – and the vast reach of technology in all aspects of life – is forcing companies to rethink the prerequisites for successful hiring and the types of employees they really need to help them succeed in the years to come.

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