The College Recruiting Times They Are a Changin’

May 15, 2014

SlocumHallWhen it comes to the current landscape of college recruiting, I like to look at what’s going on out there as a three-act play.

Act 1 — The Problem

Society thinks differently about education today. This movement is being created by a marketplace that has begun to question the value of a college education. In a 2014 Bentley University study, 35 percent of business leaders in the survey said recent grads they hired would get a C or lower in terms of their preparedness for the job they hold and two-thirds of business leaders said recent grads harm their day-to-day productivity because their new hires are not well-prepared. Google no longer puts any weight on a candidate’s GPA or test scores while in college. Forty four percent of recent college graduates are underemployed, yet millions of jobs are going unfilled because companies can’t find candidates with the right skills.

Act 2 — Disruptive Innovation

The typical pathway to advanced knowledge is no longer just a college degree from a traditional university. Alternative forms of learning are popping up all around. Going from least disruptive to most disruptive, three of these alternate forms of learning include:

  • Competency based learning — students learn at their own pace under facilitated instruction online. Degrees can be earned for demonstrating competency in a given subject matter regardless of the time it takes to do so.
  • Boot camps — typically post-baccalaureate, boot camps are like finishing school. Students learn a skill in a highly concentrated content area such as digital advertising, coding, programming, web design, and so on. Students pay $7-10,000 for these 8-10 week classes and emerge with highly marketable skills.
  • MOOCs — provide open online instruction which dovetails with the way people actually learn and solve problems in the modern world. Classmates come from the global community, not just the classroom. Call it “do it yourself learning” from motivated learners. This large scale online learning solution translates the learning experience into inexpensive career advancement solutions.

Act 3 — Adaptation 

Recruiters and talent acquisition leaders have to decide if this disruptive innovation is friend or foe. Often, that choice comes down to the hiring managers or heads of talent acquisition and human resources. Many of these men and women are traditionalists and unlikely to change their model of going straight to pre-identified colleges and universities to recruit on campus. In time, it’s likely more attention will be given to individuals who possess skills acquired through one of these alternative forms of learning.

When corporate American begins to accept wholesale skills acquired, for example, from a boot camp or an MOOC, the whole game changes. No longer will a classic college degree necessarily be the only — or the preferred — pathway to a job offer.

My best advice right now: 1) be aware of these changes going on around us; 2) decide if at your company what matters most is the demonstrated skill/competency of a candidate, or the classic pedigree of an earned degree at a traditional college or university.

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