Education as a foundation
Degree level study has long been considered an academic baseline for entering the world of employment, particularly in certain professions. But whilst you might immediately think of a university degree, this route isn’t the only way to gain a formal qualification and will not always be the best choice for the individual.
Indeed, earlier this year the UK government announced that they were making a U-turn on the pledge to get 50% of young people to go university, and that their strategy would involve a focus on higher technical qualifications.
It appears that this message is also filtering through to individuals; 60% of UK respondents to the 2020 Global Learner Survey believe that “you can do ok in life without a university degree”, and 65% of participants globally think that “fewer people will seek out traditional university degrees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To embed this within the context of 2020, Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President, Pearson BTEC and Apprenticeship, highlights in this TES article:
over the past few weeks and months, we’ve seen the impact these key workers have had on our society, our economy and within communities.
These key workers are vocational students and now is the time to showcase how technical qualifications can drive the world forward.
A shift in thinking
This year, more than ever, employability skills are on the agenda. Students need to ensure that they make the right choices to secure a role in a difficult job market, and the first step is establishing a clear link between education and industry.
In 2019, Pearson conducted an online survey with over 3,000 employers across Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The results showed that organisations cited that finding candidates with the right hard skills was by far the top hiring challenge. Indeed describes hard skills as being related to ‘specific technical knowledge and training’, compared to soft skills such as organisation and communication abilities.
Within the same survey, many employers stated that they are now exploring the option of hiring candidates with non-degree credentials, and we can certainly draw a parallel between these two statistics. However, there is a long way to go to change the perceptions on hiring bias, and it needs to come from the top.
Motivation for change
Technical qualifications often get over-looked in place of academic credentials. There are, of course, roles that require the academic experience that a university degree offers, however employers and hiring staff should be aware of the different options out there.
Understanding the education landscape needs to play a key role here, considering the full spectrum of qualifications, certifications and courses that are out there, and which are likely to grow as learning increasingly moves into the digital sphere. By thinking outside what has often become the ‘norm’, and looking at a wider portfolio of candidates, we will start to enable students to really make choices based on their individual needs.
Can the post-Covid world lead organisations to be more open-minded in their recruitment strategies? If so, perhaps 2020 can bring us closer to reducing the hiring bias, and diversifying the workforce, in a world where the landscape of education is set to look very different.