by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[E]mployers are turning from degree-based hiring to skills-based hiring — that is, from using college degrees to using practical knowledge and experience to evaluate a job seeker’s qualifications. Skills-based hiring is increasingly used by major companies such as Google, Apple, IBM, Mastercard and Bank of America. This trend has big implications for how schools, colleges and other programs prepare people for jobs and careers. Hiring employees based on demonstrated skills, not just educational attainment, will lead to a more diverse workforce and provide opportunities for Americans with workforce skills but no college degree to obtain better-paying jobs.
Using college degrees as the primary criterion for hiring has many negative consequences. First, “Resumes are a lightning rod for human bias,” says Khyati Sundaram, CEO of Applied, a behavioral science-backed tool for fair hiring. An [email protected] study found that requiring degrees eliminates 83% of Latinos, 76% of African Americans and 81% of rural residents from jobs that they are otherwise qualified to fill with the skills they have.
Second, degree fixation creates degree inflation, as employers start to require degrees for jobs that didn’t previously require them. For example, a Harvard Business School report documents that in 2015, only 16% of production supervisors had college degrees. Yet today, 67% of job postings for production supervisor positions require degrees. The skills needed haven’t changed, but the degree requirements have.
Third, degree-based hiring shrinks the talent pipeline. According to the Census Bureau, 62% of Americans over 25 years of age have no bachelor’s degree. That number increases to 72% for Black individuals and 79% for Hispanics. “Employers have been sleepwalking into a system that screens out the majority of workers, including millions of people who possess sought-after skills. These three seemingly innocuous words—‘bachelor’s degree required’—are causing serious damage to our workers and economy,” says Byron Auguste of [email protected]
Finally, surveys of young people suggest that they view college differently from prior generations.