college degrees are overrated

Thanks to Mlive for this:

Michigan business drops college degree job requirement — it’s not alone

Kaitlyn Ziehm had no art background, no printing experience, and no graphic design degree.

But she recently became a print project manager for Pontiac commercial printer Company Folders, Inc.

“You would think that you would need some sort of education or at least extensive experience beforehand, but that’s not necessarily the case all the time,” Ziehm said. “I’m thriving and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I first started off.”

As Ziehm learned on the job and a listing for a marketing manager went answered, Company Folders CEO Vladimir Gendelman started to rethink hiring.

“Most of what we do is more skills-based than education-based. It was just like a light bulb: Why do we even need it? Let’s completely forget about college degrees for the company,” he said.

As of late August, Company Folders — a business that has worked with thousands of organizations including Google, Amazon and Ford — no longer requires job candidates to have college degrees.

It joined a growing number of companies.

Tech companies like Google, Apple, Accenture and IBM now favor experience over a four-year degree. General Motors axed its college education requirement for some roles earlier this year. And researchers say an era of “degree inflation” is shifting into a “degree reset.”

“Employers are resetting degree requirements in a wide range of roles, dropping the requirement for a bachelor’s degree in many middle-skill and even some higher skill roles,” said a February report from The Burning Glass Institute, a nonprofit research group; Emsi Burning Glass, a labor analytics firm; and the Harvard Business School.

By analyzing 51 million job postings, the researchers found degree requirements were dropped from 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill jobs between 2017 to 2019. And an Indeed survey of 502 U.S. employers found 59% would consider cutting the requirement in the future.

At Company Folders, Ziehm was first hired to be a junior copywriter last year before shifting into an executive assistant role and recently becoming a print project manager. Although she has a bachelor’s in English from Wayne State University, other print project managers have art or graphic design degrees.

“I may have (a degree), but I’m not necessarily using it. I’m being successful, I’m moving up the chain and I think anyone can do that,” she said.

Ziehm received on-the-job training, using the Adobe Creative Suite, watching YouTube videos, asking questions, making mistakes and eventually getting the hang of it. As a print project manager, Ziehm is responsible for customer service, understanding the ins and outs of printing and some graphic design.

“She has no education in graphic design and printing, and she didn’t know anything about artwork. But she started learning and right now, she’s pretty much as good as anybody else,” Gendelman said.

Gendelman then examined the roughly two dozen Company Folder positions and discovered none necessarily required a college education. And many of his employees had four-year degrees unrelated to their current roles.

“The requirement was there because it was there,” he said. “You know how sometimes we do things just because we do things?”

Getting rid of college education requirements could help U.S. companies fill 11.2 million current job openings — especially since only 38% of working adults have a four-year degree.

A May survey conducted by Cengage Group, an education tech company, found 65% of employers are struggling to hire. Of those, two-thirds believe removing degree requirements could fill staffing gaps.

Yet most still require a degree with about 26% doing so because the requirements “filter the talent pool” or “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

“A lot of other companies should be taking the same sort of step forward, especially with some places being understaffed nowadays,” Ziehm said. “I think a lot of reason why people are being held back from getting employees is because they have that college degree requirement.”

Based on current trends, Burning Glass researchers forecast 1.4 million jobs could open to workers without college degrees over the next five years.

Despite this movement, a National Bureau of Economic Research report found workers with bachelor’s degrees continue to have access to “higher wage occupations.” But researchers say this income inequality can be addressed with “on-the-job training” for those without degrees.

For Gendelman, he now prioritizes experience, skills and a “hunger for learning” over a college education.

“From my perspective, it’s beneficial for companies because they can have access to different kinds of talents. But I also believe that it is important to give people who don’t have a college education a fair chance,” he said.

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