BIG employers are going cold on university degrees, leaving students and jobseekers to wonder
if their qualifications are worth the investment and extra study.
This week, international publishing house Penguin Random House decided to drop degrees as a requirement for job applicants, following in the footsteps of major consulting firms Ernst and Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The move comes as smaller employers are shifting away from hiring graduates or university students, believing kids are coming out of university with “no real skills” or simply being taught the wrong things.
Penguin hasn’t been so harsh, saying the shift in requirements is simply a move “to make publishing far, far more inclusive than it has been to date”.
“While graduates remain welcome to apply for jobs, not having been through higher education will no longer preclude anyone from joining,” a statement from the publisher confirmed.
Simply if you’re talented and you have potential, we want to hear from you.”
But it’s still a scary prospect for higher education providers, a welcome relief from stressed out students or those who didn’t get the grades for the course they wanted, and a source of endless frustration for over-qualified graduates.
The value of tertiary education has consistently decreased in Australia over the past decade.
Graduate employment is the lowest it’s been since the 1992-93 recession.
The 2015 Graduate Careers Australia survey showed more than a quarter of bachelor degree graduates had failed to find work within four months of completing their studies. The money they’re being paid is on the slide, too, with university graduate salaries going down.
Meanwhile, soft skills, such as being personable, adaptable, possessing strong digital skills, and adept at time management are being increasingly valued.
Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent at Ernst and Young, which did away with academic and education details in its application process, said the new recruiting strategy would “open up opportunities or talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”.
While the growing culture of qualification-ignorant hiring is being spun positively by the companies enforcing it, it’s hard not to see it as a slight on universities too.
In an earlier interview with news.com.au Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Kate Carnell said employers found 20-somethings were more qualified than ever before. Graduates were showing up to work with degrees from universities but were “disconnected with the workforce”, she said.
“A number of our members consistently tell us they’re seeing students come out of university or training programs and they might have the academic or theoretical skills, but no skills to work at all. It makes them really hard to employ,” she said.
“General issues are not understanding that a job is about turning up on time every day, not just when you feel like, that it’s about taking direction, and basic things like you’ve got to be well presented and you’ve got to be pleasant.”
Speaking with ABC radio, Deakin University deputy vice-chancellor Beverley Oliver said universities weren’t bothered.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think credentials are things we all look for; they’re signals. We look for experience or a degree completed or a course,” she said.
“This message has been loud and clear for some time to higher education providers. I think the sector has made great changes over the last 15 years, particularly making sure the degree is a signifier of a more than just marks and grades.”