Is a College Degree Really Necessary to do the Job?

The University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium has 92,746 seats. As large as that is — and it’s larger than all 31 NFL stadiums — it is still not big enough to seat every unemployed, out of school 16-24 year-old in the city of Atlanta.

It’s Ryan Downey’s job to do something about that. And to do it so well, he tells his Atlanta DisruptHR audience, that he puts himself out of a job.  Downey is director of recruitment & admissions at YearUp, a national training and development organization for urban youths.

One reason so many young people are unemployed and underemployed, says Downey, “is the credentials gap. This is requiring 4-year degrees for roles that historically have not required that kind of degree attainment.” This upskilling of academic requirements may be appropriate for some jobs, he agrees, but often it is a “proxy for higher quality employees.” He suggests that it is not a good one when you’re talking about “assets like dependability, teamwork, leadership. I think about people who are self-directed learners. And I know, because I did go to three schools, that I didn’t get all those skills through school.”

To reach these young people who have developed skills and talents through initiative and life experience, Downey offers two suggestions:

  1. When building a talent pool and writing job descriptions, “We need to think about competencies and skills and stop excluding people based on degrees.”
  2. Invest in apprenticeship and internship programs.

DisruptHR presentations are limited to 5 minutes, so hearing how you can identify and hire the young people who have everything you want except for that diploma will take less time than getting your order at Starbucks.

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In partnership with DisruptHR, TLNT presents some of the best Disrupt presentations from events across North America and now the world. Disrupt talks are modeled on the TEDx concept: Short, to the point talks on all things HR — talent, culture and technology.

DISRUPT is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field.

Founded by Disrupt's CEO Jennifer McClure, events are organized by volunteer teams working with Disrupt staff who assist in the planning. Events have a maximum of 14 speakers, who get 5 minutes and no more than 20 slides for their presentation.

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1 Comment on “Is a College Degree Really Necessary to do the Job?

  1. From:

    Increasingly over recent decades the academic industry has been committing a fraud on the American public – for as the skill set denoted by a high school diploma became devalued, often granted to those with an 8th grade skill set (if not less) – employers compensated by requiring bachelor’s degrees even for (relatively) entry-level jobs. This was the employers’ attempt to limit their applicant pool to those with (at least) what once was high school level literacy in language and math. Simultaneously, the public was fed the mantra that “a college degree” was now necessary in order for their children to “get a decent job” and to “live a middle class existence.” As a result we now have multiple generations of people who’ve pursued a degree, saddled with a debt load that takes a good part of their working career to payoff, merely to get their foot in the door of an employer. It doesn’t have to be this way! If prospective employers can once again have confidence that a high school graduate brings with them a decent level of literacy in the “three R’s” (and more), they’ll recruit accordingly. And so, as stated, young people will be able to enter right into the workforce, in productive jobs, without student loan debt …

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