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Silicon Valley Wants Skills Not Degrees

“Skills not degrees are what we want”, exclaimed a prominent Siliccon Valley tech billionaire. The billionaire is not the only one who has shifted entry requirements when hiring. The likes of Elon Musk have resolved not hire MBAs as they stifle innovation, according to him.

Silicon Valley is starting to realize that the huge talent pool of nontraditional candidates may be the answer to its pipeline problem.

IBM’s head of talent organization, Sam Ladah, calls this sort of initiative a focus on “new-collar jobs.” The idea, he says, is to look toward different applicant pools to find new talent. “We consider them based on their skills,” he says, and don’t take into account their educational background. This includes applicants who didn’t get a four-year degree but have proven their technical knowledge in other ways. Some have technical certifications, and others have enrolled in other skills programs. “We’ve been very successful in hiring from [coding] bootcamps,” says Ladah.

Intel has also been looking to find talent from other educational avenues. One program gave people either enrolled in or recently graduated from community colleges internships with the company. Similarly, the company has been trying to get a foothold in high schools by funding initiatives to boost computer science curricula for both the Oakland Unified School District and an Arizona-based high-school oriented program called Next Generation of Native American Coders.

“Through focused initiatives in education, investment, and internship programs for high school and community college students, our aim is to attract a diversified talent pool to technology careers like engineering and computer science,” says Danielle Brown, VP of human resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer, in a statement. The program is still very small–only 10 students got community college internship spots.

The most prominent way that tech companies now try to seek out these new pipelines is through other organizations. Intel, for example, invests in the program CODE 2040, which aims to build pathways for underrepresented minority youth to enter the technology space. Likewise, GitHub has partnered with coding-focused enrichment programs like Operation Code, Hackbright, and Code Tenderloin.

The world has always complained about the education system, especially the assessment system that focuses on one’s ability to regurgitate information in an exam and then forget everything upon passing the subject. Education has for too long been exam focused at the expense of practically preparing students for the real life.

“It is sad that we in England, still teach learners computer science using pen and paper. The exams are theory and far removed from the skills required by industry. I am fighting this injustice in my own capacity because we cannot short-change our learners with acaake methods”, fumed Simbarashe Zimani, an acclaimed computer science teacher in London.

The big technology platform companies are leading the way in ditching four year degrees as a pre-requisite to hiring. They are testing prospective and current employees on necessary skillls to thrive in the 21t century workplace.

This new wave of skills-based hiring is in tune with what is happening on the ground. High education debt has become untenable, it is now too expensive for the majority of students to go to college thus skills should be learnt on a need basis as opposed to wasting four years doing stuff you dont use in life. The emphasis on skills is definitely not a compromise on candidate quality but a different way of hiring exceptional people who can actually bring value to the company.

“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people,” said Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock.

“Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door,” added Maggie Stilwell, Ernst and Young’s managing partner for talent.

Google, IBM and Hilton are just three of the champion companies who realize that book smarts don’t necessarily equal strong work ethic, grit and talent.

MathsGee has realised that Africa needs to elevate itself from the position of inferiority and lead in the digital skills revolution. Currently African university programs are some of the most theoretically intense offerings and this can be attributed to the contnent’s need for validation. Data shows that African universities are less likely to tamper with their curricula as this risks rankings and how they are perceieved by their overseas peers. This has to change if Africa is to leapfrog in the technolgy race of the 4th industrial revolution.

MathsGee has created a platform for skills sharing and in its quest to be the leading digital skills exchange, has partnered with Google (Google Digital SKills Africa) and IBM (IBM Digital Nation Africa). These two iniatives allow Africans to learn the latest digital skills  that will help them soar as employees and/or entrepreneurs.

According to Glassdoor, whether one has a matric (GED) and is looking for a new opportunity or charting one’s own path beyond the traditional four-year college route, here are 15 companies that have said they do not require a college diploma for some of their top jobs.

1. Google

2. EY (UK)

3. Penguin Random House

4. Costco Wholesale

5. Whole Foods

6. Hilton

7. Publix

8. Apple

9. Starbucks

10. Nordstrom
11. Home Depot

12. IBM

13. Bank of America

14. Chipotle

15. Lowe’s

Google Digital Skills Africa


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