The great skills mismatch actually has two gaps, Google’s CMO says. Ditching degree requirements could help solve them

In today's white-collar industry, hiring managers often expect college-educated individuals to fill open roles. However, they are frequently disappointed to find that these workers, who should have received a comprehensive education, lack essential new skills. This creates a compromise for both parties involved. About 75% of U.S. jobs that pay more than $35,000 per year require a college degree, despite only 38% of Americans holding one. This mismatch locks out around 70 million workers from job opportunities. The skills gap has drawn significant attention, particularly during the pandemic when the value of a college degree was called into question due to the student debt crisis. As the labor market fluctuated, employers struggled to find candidates with the specific talents they needed, despite a large pool of degree-holding applicants.

One solution to this problem is upskilling workers and shifting towards skills-based hiring. This approach involves providing training and certifications for in-demand skills, regardless of an individual's education level. Google's skilling initiative, Grow with Google, was founded in 2017 and offers lessons and certifications in areas such as cybersecurity and data analytics. Several influential figures, including Condoleezza Rice, Ginni Rometty, and Satya Nadella, have advocated for skills-based hiring over traditional degree requirements. A LinkedIn report from April 2023 suggests that companies that embrace this shift could experience a significant increase in talent, with 19 times the number of workers being placed in suitable roles.

Even university professors recognize that a college degree alone is insufficient to meet employers' skill requirements. While pursuing higher education and a career still provides advantages, such as better job outcomes and higher salaries, it's no longer a guaranteed ticket to a secure future. However, degrees still serve as a screening tool for evaluating job qualifications. Expanding hiring criteria to include non-traditional workers who possess the required skills is in the best interest of companies. Moreover, the skills and knowledge acquired during college may not always align perfectly with future job requirements.

Widening the talent pool by focusing on skills becomes crucial, especially during tight job markets. LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky emphasizes the need to consider alternative, flexible, and accessible paths based on skills, as relying solely on professional or alumni networks may not be sufficient when there is a high demand for qualified candidates. Companies that prioritize skills over pedigree can place the right people in the right roles, creating better opportunities for employees from diverse backgrounds, and democratizing the workforce.

Upskilling employees or providing opportunities for self-upskilling is also an effective retention strategy, particularly for younger workers. Gen Zers, in particular, value the ability to upskill in their jobs even more than paid vacation. Therefore, employers who offer opportunities for continuous learning and growth can attract and retain talented individuals.

Overall, adopting a skills-based approach, upskilling workers, and widening the talent pool can help bridge the gap between the skills employers seek and the training most workers receive. This not only benefits companies but also creates better opportunities for individuals and leads to a more diverse and dynamic workforce.  

Trying to summarize every job you’ve ever had and then distill that onto a two-page résumé has been the bane of job hunter’s existence since around the 1950s. Fortunately, for Gen Z, it’s something they might never have to bore themselves with. 

That’s because new research shows that many companies are moving away from relying on the traditional job application requirement.

In fact, almost three-quarters of companies now use skills-based assessments throughout their hiring process, according to TestGorilla’s The State of Skills-Based Hiring 2023 report which surveyed 3,000 employees and employers around the world. This is up from 56% last year.

Although many of those employers are still also using CVs, it might not be long until they’re a thing of the past because most bosses are already favoring the new hiring practice and reporting big results. 

Skills-based hiring is more effective, the data shows

The employers surveyed who use skills-based hiring—which includes role-specific skills assessments, instead of simply scanning someone’s listed career experience—reported massive gains.

According to TestGorilla’s research, it reduced the number of mis-hires by 88%, total time spent searching for the perfect candidate by 82%, and hiring-related costs by 74%.

Overall, 92% of the employers surveyed reported that skills-based hiring is more effective at identifying talented candidates than a traditional CV. Meanwhile, over 80% said it’s more predictive of on-job success and leads to new hires staying longer in their roles.

By testing candidates on how they would handle the actual day-to-day responsibilities of a role, employers are more likely to hire the best person for the job instead of being drawn by big names and snazzy titles.

As Khyati Sundaram, CEO of the skill-based recruitment platform Applied, previously told Fortune, just because someone has listed on their résumé that they’ve worked with the SEO team at somewhere alluring like Google, it doesn’t actually mean they know the ins and outs of search engine optimization to the extent that’s required for a role. 

“We are trying to make sure the test or the question is as relevant to the job as possible,” Sundaram said, adding, “That’s the reason that candidates love it too.”

Intuitively people may assume that taking multiple skills-based tests would feel like more of a nuisance for job seekers than simply blasting their CV at hundreds of roles—but the data shows otherwise. 

Most of the workers that TestGorilla surveyed think that skills-based hiring levels the playing field and improves their chances of bagging their dream jobs. 

This is especially true for candidates who are often overlooked. In fact, around three-quarters of the Black, Asian, and Arab employees that TestGorilla surveyed have already reportedly gained access to new employment opportunities through skills-based assessments.

The uptick in skills-based hiring comes as degrees have slidden down the priority list for employers.

Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple have all eliminated their long-held degree requirements to remove barriers to entry and recruit more diverse talent. Meanwhile, recruiters globally are five times more likely to search for new hires by skills over higher education.

Cisco’s top executive in the U.K. recently revealed that young aspiring workers would be better off skipping out on college to join the world of work straight away.

“In university, you come out with whatever degree you may get, but it’s almost certainly saddled with debt,” David Meads Cisco’s U.K. and Ireland CEO told Fortune. “Is that better than on-the-job experience where you’re rotating through different parts of our organization, and living the reality and not just the theory?”

“For me, attitude and aptitude are more important than whatever letters you have after your name, or whatever qualifications you’ve got on a sheet,” he added.

But research has shown that skeptical Gen Z remain unconvinced: They’re shunning apprenticeship schemes in favor of going down the traditional route of college. So perhaps they will still go through the bore of writing a résumé—even if, like a college degree, it’s no longer needed.

In recent months, Gen Zers have taken to TikTok to express their concerns about work culture and advocate for changes in corporate environments. Videos with the related search term "remote work" on TikTok have garnered over 2.9 billion views. These videos range from offering tips on finding remote jobs to comedic skits that parody the sentiment.

The discussion has expanded to include older generations, particularly millennials, who have shared their perspectives on the benefits and downsides of working in an office. One TikToker, Toby, a 27-year-old tech professional, posted a video explaining why he believes Gen Z workers should consider going into the office. He argues that being in an office setting can improve confidence, social skills, and communication, while also providing opportunities to learn from colleagues, participate in work projects discussed in person, build relationships with higher-ups, and potentially receive promotions and pay raises.

However, not all millennials agree that the solution is to force everyone back into offices. In response to an article reporting that some Gen Z workers felt lonely due to remote work, millennial comedian Andrew Schiavone sarcastically listed aspects of in-office culture that Gen Z might "miss out" on, referring to the office as an "awkward social obstacle course." Schiavone concluded that the main benefit of working from the office is the appreciation it brings for working from home.

The response to these videos has been mixed. Viewers have expressed varying opinions on whether in-person interaction is beneficial for career development and socializing. Some mentioned the additional stress and financial strain of commuting that remote work can alleviate. Others emphasized that the choice should ultimately be up to the workers themselves.

These videos indicate that older generations are starting to take notice of the work culture content shared by Gen Z on TikTok. In the comments sections of viral videos from Gen Z and recent graduates expressing their shock about 9-to-5 jobs, many people, including millennials and even some Gen Xers, have rallied around the younger workers. They have shared their own disenchanted experiences with corporate culture and expressed hopes for positive changes, such as implementing four-day work weeks.  

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