Student News

What Do CEOs Want? Skills – Not Just Degrees from Colleges

Some of the largest companies are revamping the hiring process to focus on skills, not just degrees.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 26, 2021

What Do CEOs Want? Skills – Not Just Degrees from Colleges
A new initiative places more emphasis on having the skills for the job.
For decades, the impetus for going to college was getting a college degree. Without that degree, specific jobs in certain industries were unattainable. Today, though, CEOs are looking for more than just a college degree. That may send some students into a panic – what more do I need to do? A Master’s degree? A post-graduate internship? The answer is actually very simple: CEOs are looking for graduates with skills, and not necessarily a college degree. They want new employees that don’t just understand the theory behind business, marketing, or content strategy; they want employees that can do the work.
This pivot may eliminate the need for some students to attend a traditional, four-year college and opt for other higher education opportunities. It may also require that colleges change their teaching methods. Massive, influential companies within the U.S. are already on board with this method – so what does it mean for students?

What is the Business Roundtable Initiative?

Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs from around the country that advocate through public policy for a stronger economy and opportunity in the workplace. According to a press release, they have announced a “new, multi-year effort to reform companies’ hiring and talent management practices to emphasize the value of skills, rather than just degrees, and to improve equity, diversity and workplace culture.”
This initiative has been signed by 80 CEOs, and counting. Participating companies include Bank of America Corporation, Cisco Systems, Delta Air Lines, Mattel, Target Corporation, and Pfizer, Inc. As you can see, the companies span a wide breadth of fields. As these companies – and many more – shift their focus in the hiring process, this is what they intend to change:
  1. Rewriting job descriptions to focus on skills needed for the role.
  2. Review current assessment tools and change the interviewing process to determine the skills needed for the job.
  3. Provide transparent job advancement pathways for the current workforce that can be met through completing training programs.
  4. Utilizing training modules, like mentorships, apprenticeships, and online learning, that teach new and existing employees fresh skills.
  5. Recognizing employees who complete new certifications within the company.

What Does This Mean for Students?

For current college students, this news is big and requires some immediate action within their college career. As employers change to search for new employees with skills, college students need to have a resume that highlights experience – and not just an education. It is vital that college students seek out an internship (or remote internship), mentorship, or apprenticeship, while in college. Many colleges offer the opportunity for students to gain college credit while interning for a semester. Or they can help students line up a fantastic summer working experience through the campus career center. Students can also find opportunities through Fastweb Internships. Just like our scholarship matching service, we can match students to internships based on location, career field, or major. Part-time jobs can also enhance the resume with real work experience; and our Part-Time Jobs search, which is powered by Monster, is just the place to find those opportunities. College students may also want to consider online learning certifications or programs to enhance their college degree. For example, if you’re an English Writing major that hopes to work as an online editor after college, it may be helpful to take a Content Strategy or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) course online. There are multiple platforms that provide online learning for free, or at a cost, and we’ve highlighted some of the best places to start in our Online Learning Center. High school students may want to consider if an online degree is sufficient for the job or career they hope to secure in the future. It may be that a technical school or community college provides the skills necessary to enter the workforce. Some students might find that they should seek out a mentorship or apprenticeship instead. An apprenticeship may sound like a relatively new concept, but apprenticeships were the only career pathway for individuals hundreds of years ago – before college was so mainstream. This career pathway is making a comeback, and the Biden Administration is spearheading the movement to attract students to this alternative option within higher education. Just days ago, The White House released a Fact Sheet on expanding registered apprenticeships that lead to well-paying jobs. These jobs will include “building roads, bridges, transit, electric vehicle charging stations, broadband, schools and child care centers, water infrastructure, and more.” College degrees aren’t necessary for these roles but skills are highly valuable, and that’s where apprenticeships will make the difference between getting hired and not.

College Degrees and Skills

Is this the end of the traditional college degree? Probably not. However, it is challenging the precedent that a four-year college degree is necessary for a high-paying job at a large, corporate company. It’s also paving the way for a more diverse workforce, both racially and economically. By shifting the focus to skills, not just degrees, companies are saying that it doesn’t matter whether or not you can afford a college education. Instead, the focus is on the skills you have developed – or are willing to develop. What are your thoughts on the new initiative? Do you a think a college degree will be necessary in the future?

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