Employers often lament the gap between what students learn in college and what they are actually expected to know to be job-ready. This is particularly alarming as the number of college graduates grows, which in turn decreases the value added from a college degree. Yet as university qualifications become more commonplace, employers will increasingly demand them, regardless of whether they are actually required for a specific job.
There are several data-driven arguments that question the actual value of a college degree. First, meta-analytic reviews have long-established that the correlation between education level and job performance is weak. In fact, research shows that intelligence scores are a much better indicator of job potential than academic grades. College degrees are also confounded with social class and play a part in reducing social mobility and augmenting inequality. Instead of relying on university qualifications as an indicator of a candidate’s intellectual competence, employers could instead use psychological assessments, which are much more predictive of future job performance, and less confounded with socioeconomic status and demographic variables. For their part, universities could increase the value of the college degree if they spent more time teaching their students critical soft skills. Some employers have highlighted the importance of learnability – being curious and having a hungry mind – as a key indicator of career potential.
There is also a huge opportunity for colleges to restore their relevance by teaching management skills to help to fill the learning gap many individuals face when they are promoted into a leadership role. As more students pursue higher education with the aim of increasing their employability, companies can help change the narrative by putting less weight on “higher education” as a measure of intellectual competence and job potential and, instead, approach hiring with more open-mindedness.
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