According to a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll, over half of Americans – particularly women and senior citizens – are losing faith in a college education. Degrees are still important for fields such as medicine and engineering but there are a large number of middle-skilled occupations where alternatives would suffice. Many big tech companies such as Google, Apple and IBM no longer require college degrees for certain positions. Instead, the focus is on non-degree pathways where skills, experience and personality traits are considered. Micro-credentials are emerging as a viable alternative, which the World Economic Forum defines as anything from volunteering at a food bank to completing a short online course or coding workshop. Also known as digital badges, these micro-credentials can be accumulated and collected through apps, websites and data systems, in essence providing an alternative, skills-based CV. In Africa, tech hubs are challenging the dominance of traditional universities, leading the way in education for those with lower incomes.
Why is it important?
University degrees have for a long time been seen as the bastion of higher education, but this is changing. As Old Mutual reports, the average cost of sending someone to university in South Africa is currently R55,900 and is projected to rise to R95,700 by 2030, reaching R177,200 by 2038. Critics argue that degrees take too long and are too expensive. While it’s true that the past 50 years saw an increase in demand for degrees, this was to redress inequality in women enrolment. That growth trend is now showing signs of decline. Removing degree requirements and focusing on microcredentials can benefit people of all ages, education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. They open up jobs to a wider, more diverse talent pool, a positive outcome as studies show that increased diversity is better for business. But, best of all, specifically for South Africa, micro-credentials are designed to ease a skills crisis in certain sectors because learners can boost their skills in months rather than years, as is the case with most academic qualifications.
What can businesses do about it?
According to the results of a survey of 502 employers across the US, most of the companies surveyed are moving toward a more flexible model of candidate recruiting. “Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment,” says Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent, Ernst & Young. Companies such as IBM, Google, Accenture and the Bank of America are among the growing cohort of companies who are no longer requiring college degrees for certain positions. Businesses would be well advised to consider a shift in hiring practices that recognise the non-traditional paths many have taken to develop skills. They should also consider providing the learning opportunities needed to fulfil particular roles: apprenticeships, fellowships, and internships are some of the ways they could do this. A candidate’s ability to learn is an important consideration when hiring, as are prior experience and attitude, to get a full picture of that person.
By Faeeza Khan
In an era where foresight, problem solving and left field thinking are the new business currency, Flux Trends is proud to announce the launch of the Flux Innovation Tour 2023: Meet the Solution-Based, Future Innovators Defining the New World Order.
This unique full-day tour is designed to simultaneously shift your thinking and challenge your perceptions of the innovation process by – literally – introducing delegates to the future. Specifically, by introducing you to the young innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs building the future of South Africa, Africa, and the world.