Growth of Online Education Challenges Employers to Rethink Focus on Credentials

Growth of Online Education Challenges Employers to Rethink Focus on Credentials

The value of a college degree has been called into question in recent years, partly because many of the most dependable jobs in today’s economy are technical roles that employees can prepare for through alternative education; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has begun speaking of “new collar” employees who she expects to perform many new, high-tech roles that don’t necessarily require an advanced degree.

In the meantime, alternative forms of education like online programs and coding bootcamps are producing an ever-greater number of candidates who may have the skills employers need, but not the diplomas they are looking for. “As such alternative forms of education become more common, Lauren Dixon wonders at Talent Economy, “what will it take for recruiters to equate the credibility of skills earned through these new platforms with those earned through more conventional education?”

By requiring a college degree for many roles, employers might be limiting their candidate pool too much, leading to today’s persistent skills gap. … “When you only recruit from the same pools that you’ve traditionally recruited from, obviously the supply there is not sufficient to cover the demand,” said Kieran Luke, general manager of credentials at General Assembly, a global education company specializing in in-demand skills based in New York.

One solution to this talent pipeline challenge and skills shortage is opening up jobs to those without traditional, four-year degrees who have potentially gained skills through online platforms and certification programs. The challenge, then, is how to trust these nontraditional educational approaches, said Aaron Michel, co-founder and CEO at PathSource, an app for career exploration based in Burlingame, California. He believes that over time employers will focus more on skills than on degrees. Employers will have to see their peers also accepting these types of job candidates, and then the employees will need to be successful. “Social proof and experience will both be significant factors in driving this process forward,” Michel said.

A few employers, like the publisher Penguin Random House UK, have gone so far as to do away with college degree requirements entirely for corporate roles, figuring they can attract a better and more diverse workforce by focusing on identifying candidates’ talent and potential independently of their credentials. Yet at the same time, a bachelor’s degree is more of a requirement for entering the professional job market than ever before, and a study published in January found that the wage premium enjoyed by college compared to high school graduates in the US was the highest it has been in at least 40 years.

Alternative education like coding bootcamps are also seen as an effective way to grow and diversify the talent pipeline, particularly for tech roles where skills are scarce and highly in demand. Nonetheless, some employers and graduates of bootcamps say they don’t always give students the skills and experience they need to succeed as programmers, and many bootcamp alumni require extensive additional training and support from their employers.