What value do employers give to qualifications?

Thanks to Downes, I found this paper on how business value qualifications (as in “university degree”) over experience.

Employers regard qualifications as a signal of potential for future learning and skills acquisition, not as a signal of immediate competence. Overall, employers drew a strong distinction between qualifications and experience, and favoured and valued the latter more in regard to many of their business decisions. The higher the level of enterprise change and innovation, the lower the level of value and use made of qualifications by employers.

This is bad news for universities at many level. First of all, for employers, qualifications are not a sign of competence: this makes sense since, in many cases, universities don’t, can’t and won’t train students in practical skills. This reminds me of the claim some make that many CS students can’t program even if their life depends on it. It may explain why many graduates are having a hard time finding a decent job even when the industry complains about shortages. Second of all, the more innovative and fast paced a company is, the less likely it is to value qualifications. Again, this makes sense: a degree is important for a public sector job or for a large, well-established company, because they have more of a long term thinking, but less so for a start-up or small company who needs competence now. However, most jobs these days are created by small companies. This means that recent graduates face a job market where jobs are created exactly where people don’t value their degrees. The net result is that the market value of a degree is not rising (my claim). Again, bad news all around for universities.

Anyone got good news for universities?

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

One thought on “What value do employers give to qualifications?”

  1. Interesting to see your continued concern about universities and their role and importance going forward. I have good news for you: qualifications are very important.

    I regularly hire people into a company that’s about as innovative and fast changing as they get. One of the first things we look at is what school the candidate went to and what they studied. In our scenario, where there are many more resumes to look at than candidates we’ll accept, schooling is a first order filter. In truth, it’s difficult to get in here unless you went to a good school, no matter how talented you are, since your resume won’t make it past the first filter.

    Of course if someone has 10 years of experience in the field and has demonstrated excellence, that’s a different story. But for someone graduating from college, believe me, your qualifications matter a great deal.

    To be clear, I’m not talking about certification in some technology or another; I’m talking about a degree from a reputable school.

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