Ditching the Degree

6 months ago by Sophie Stones

Ditching the Degree


As the workplace changes, should we be maintaining the rigid gates to enter it? There was once a time when a degree was seen as the shining star on our CV’s, it afforded opportunities that other qualifications and work experience simply did not. However, this is changing, and it can’t come soon enough.

During the recruitment process, you often see hiring managers treat degrees as a life-long confirmation of skills and professional competency, yet for many of us they were taken years ago and don’t deserve to take the credit for the skills we’ve learnt on the job. It’s crazy to assume that the person who took an IT degree 15 years ago inherently knows more about modern technology than the 18-year-old who spends their night teaching themselves code, and yet when we require official awards, we maintain this reality.

Gone are the days when one job serves us our whole lives, roles are now constantly evolving. In fact, of those entering primary school currently, 65% will end up in jobs that don’t even exist yet! This is exactly the reason why we need to be allowing employees to diversify their skills and not relying on old archaic qualifications guidelines that have the ability to shut out eager candidates who don’t see university as an option. In fact, it is their resilience against the traditional path that makes these candidates so desirable, “when you look at the people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, these are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything to find these people.”, Former Google SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock.

It is actually not especially surprising that degrees are no longer seen as the be all end all, when tech, the biggest growing industry, is full of self-taught developers and college drop-outs. In fact, 15% of IBM employees have no formal education, with the company preferring vocational schemes or work experience. In 2018, Upwork ranked the 20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers and guess what? Not one of them required formal education. Which is probably why 14% more freelancers feel skills training provided by employers has been more useful than their college degree (93% vs 79%).

And, it’s not just tech companies who are moving away from the traditional ladder in favour of unorthodox routes, as many companies are now saying that whilst academic qualifications will still be taken into account, they’ll “no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door” (Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent, Ernst & Young). Penguin books removed the requirement for a degree in their job descriptions in 2016, whilst PWC decided in April 2017 to allow students to bypass uni and begin working as Accountants straight after school, through their ‘higher apprenticeship programme’. These structures work so efficiently because the companies have put time and effort into creating training programmes that take those with little experience and turn them into the very best. The greatest benefit of this? Loyalty.

Whilst we offer a graduate scheme here at Goodman Masson, we’ve also employed 40 apprentices since 2017 Q3, who do an incredible job, one that couldn’t be improved by hours spent in a lecture hall. Instead they learn on the job, and when needed our learning and development team step in to help them grow. It’s a new way of working, but it’s working for us.