Earlier today I was standing in front of 200 young people (Year 11’s) sharing my story from school through to the career I have today, via www.speakers4schools.org, with the intention to hopefully inspire them.
I always incorporate the following as one of my opening lines in my talk;
“Today, I particularly want to appeal to the students amongst you, who aren’t guaranteed straight A’s. I want those amongst you who perhaps find studying for academic qualifications a challenge, or those who have no idea what you want to be when you grow up to really hear my story. Because when I was your age, that was me”
My personal journey through book smart academia has been pretty poor at worst and chequered at best, but hopefully my story of having a vision, setting goals and working diligently towards them and ultimately always striving to be not the best, but the best version of myself, will have left a lasting memory with some of those young minds.
It just so happens that also today Penguin and Random House Publishing, subsidiaries of the giant Pearson PLC, have announced that having a degree will no longer be a ‘filter’ for applicants applying for employment, which had I been a younger version of myself and were applying for a job with them right now – I would be eligible as I personally never went to university or gained a degree.
The BBC quotes Neil Morrison, Human Resources Director as saying, they want talented staff “regardless of background”.
“The firm wants to have a more varied intake of staff and suggests there is no clear link between holding a degree and performance in a job” – bbc.co.uk
No clear link between holding a degree and performance in a job – Wowzers…!
I remember Professor John MacBeath, Director of Leadership for Learning at Cambridge University who I had the pleasure of working with over 15 years ago, that in his opinion ‘the higher education system in the UK is only designed to spit out pure academics and more professors at the very top end’ and that’s from someone on the inside of the system!
There is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of our education system to prepare our young people for the world of work and I’ve been personally concerned that the most recent shift has been to impose minimum qualification criteria into so many jobs, that it’s meant in many cases you’ve needed a degree regardless of the value of that part of your education.
Of course, there will always be some careers that will always require a higher level of academic qualification, but in many cases, as highlighted by Neil Morrison there is no benefit to the employer for the additional academic study, meanwhile the student delays entering the world of work for a further 3-4 years and saddles themselves with a big lump of debt.
So it’s refreshing that Penguin, together with a number of other large corporates, including Deloitte, PWC and EY have scrapped the minimum degree requirement. I suspect the ripple effect will again be that the private sector will drive the change in the education sector, perhaps leading to consolidation or shrinking in the HE sector, as degrees that offer the student and employer little value are scrapped?
When recruiting, I obviously look for a basic level of qualification, but more importantly I, as many employers look for street smart qualities as well. How well can that person perform under pressure, can they communicate, how do they walk (yes I have hired and not hired people on how they walk into the interview) are they a leader, and in our business can they sell.
Obviously, some of these qualities may develop in a university environment, so equally I personally wouldn’t discriminate against someone who does hold a degree – but they likely won’t develop these qualities in the classroom of our higher education establishments.
Read the full article on the BBC website here >>
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