For decades, obtaining a university degree seemed to be a vital step in the route to obtaining a well-paid corporate job.
However, is this still the case? A number of large businesses seem to disagree.
The highly competitive labour market has posed a threat to various businesses, with many struggling to find the right talent for the required positions. When this is coupled with new online learning alternatives, fast-changing job roles, and shifts in working lives, the perceived value of university degrees has come under question.
Many businesses, including Apple, Tesla and IBM, are recognising this change, and as a result have stopped requiring degree-level qualifications for various positions.
This week, this growing group of companies was joined by American multinational retail giant Walmart.
In a bid to eliminate “unnecessary barriers for associates to advance in their careers”, the company on Thursday announced that it is rewriting job descriptions to factor in skills, rather than simply focusing on an individual’s qualifications.
“While degrees should be part of the equation and in some cases even required, there are many roles where a degree is simply unnecessary, including at corporate headquarters,” it explained. Therefore, applicants can either have a degree, or show that they have the required skills needed through prior experience or other forms of learning.
Additionally, some of the other jobs the retailer has still require formal education, yet it is now simplifying pathways for candidates to get them through training. “We’re working toward a system where associates can be almost halfway to a degree before even attending their first college class,” it said.
“In this approach, associates earn credit hours for on-the-job training, attending training at one of our Walmart Academy locations and completing short-form certificates. This is a huge time-saver for busy adult working learners,” the retailer added.
In the US, research has shown that around 46 per cent of middle-skill occupations and 31 per cent of high-skill occupations witnessed a “material” reduction in degree requirements between 2017 and 2019.
This has been driven by businesses giving greater priority to experience, especially since many jobs require individuals to think outside of the box and develop abilities that are not necessarily taught in classrooms or lecture halls.
This is not to say that university degrees are not important, as they are clearly very beneficial, and also offer a way into an industry. However, there are now other means of getting the job an individual truly wants.
In the past, many workers would have had one or two jobs for their whole life, in which case studying for a degree in a single field could make perfect sense. A significant number of people from that generation have now retired, or are a few years away from doing so.
Fast forward to the present, in a business environment which has been filled with job hopping, as many workers are now choosing to go from one job to another, prioritising a work-life balance in the process. Most people have now had numerous jobs, covering a wide range of industries, potentially reducing the value of a degree they achieved five or 10 years prior.
As the world progresses, skills, rather than formal education, are becoming more attractive to employers.
The skills candidates have, the skills they can learn, the ability to grow, develop and adapt with technology and the landscape of work, are at the heart of success. Whether these are obtained from education or prior experience, is not as important as it used to be.
Walmart employees / Walmart
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