Without a doubt, there could be no one, but no one, worse to communicate this change.
The bizarre choice of spokesmodel for the Trump family business notwithstanding, does that make the Executive Order a bad idea?
America’s private employers have modernized their recruitment practices to better identify and secure talent through skills- and competency-based hiring. As the modern workforce evolves, the Federal Government requires a more efficient approach to hiring. Employers adopting skills- and competency-based hiring recognize that an overreliance on college degrees excludes capable candidates and undermines labor-market efficiencies. Degree-based hiring is especially likely to exclude qualified candidates for jobs related to emerging technologies and those with weak connections between educational attainment and the skills or competencies required to perform them. Moreover, unnecessary obstacles to opportunity disproportionately burden low-income Americans and decrease economic mobility.
Whether, and to what degree, this is true is debatable. Sure, companies don’t care if their coders have a degree, but whether they can code, but they still routinely require degrees for many positions, and use algos to vet applicants so that they never see applicants who fail to meet the hiring criteria which often bears no serious connection with the job.
But is this shift signalling that hospitals won’t require MDs of its docs, or bridges won’t be built by engineers anymore? Not quite.
Trump is ordering that the federal personnel management office within six months revise qualifications it requires for jobs with the U.S. government.
A college degree will be required only if mandated by law, or if agencies filling a position believe a college degree is necessary.
Mike Rigas, the acting director of the federal Office of Personnel Management, acknowledged during a briefing with reporters that a degree will still be necessary in some jobs.
But this remains remarkably vague. In some fields, a degree serves as a baseline of competency, perhaps not much but at least a minimal indication of some knowledge required for the performance of a job.
“While education credentials are critical in many lines of work, such as the medical and legal fields, their necessity is far less clear in other areas,” Rigas said.
Administration officials didn’t identify which jobs will no longer require a college education. But the senior official said, for instance, it’s unfair that applicants who have a degree, even one unrelated to the job they’re applying for, currently are deemed more qualified than another candidate who may have greater skills but no degree.
Why would Trump do this? The contention is that he’s pandering to his un-educated base, to offer them government jobs even though they lack a college degree.
The move appeared to be a nod to voters without college degrees who strongly supported Trump in his election and are key to his re-election hopes. In making the change, Brooke Rollins, Trump’s acting domestic policy adviser, told reporters that the order will create more job pathways for the two-thirds of Americans who do not have college degrees.
Then again, the opportunity this presents will also inure to the benefit of many who want nothing to do with Trump, particularly minority job applicants for whom a college degree was beyond their reach.
College degrees have become idealized over the past 50 years, a magical gateway to success without regard to what the education or degree actually contributes to the individual’s ability to perform a task. There used to be a joke about getting a degree in “underwater basket weaving” years ago. Today, other disciplines are thrown out to be of dubious use in employment. Even worse, the pervasiveness of degrees as barriers to entry have grown with the explosion of people going to college. As many grads swiftly learned, their undergrad degrees assured them no job, as entry level positions would require a master’s degree since there were so many unemployed people floating around with a masters.
Was it needed? Was it even useful?
We also assumed that a more educated workforce was, in itself, an unmitigated good. Police departments began requiring a college degree for hiring. Are they better for it, or was it merely a “common sense” solution that failed to pan out the way it was intended?
Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, and a member of an Ivanka Trump-led workforce advisory board, which played a role in the order’s creation, said in an interview that it won’t change the important role community colleges play in teaching skills the federal government will continue to look for in job candidates.
“I don’t see it as skills versus degrees,” he said.
And then there’s an industry for which a degree is their stock in trade.
Doing away with the requirement for applicants to have a college degree in more cases will not lessen the value of a degree, he said. “I think we’re years away from businesses saying individuals don’t need college credentials,” he said.
Hartle also didn’t see the order as a blow to higher education. “I don’t think seeking highly skilled people is incompatible with people who have a college degree,” he said.
There are undoubtedly jobs that require a directed education to perform. But have we taken it too far by requiring a college degree for positions that require no specialized knowledge or education? For many young people, a college degree means amassing substantial debt, sitting through boring lectures and, too often, being required to take courses that are intended to indoctrinate rather than educate.
At the same time, there are very real doubts about the rigors of a college education, as they’ve been watered down lest any student flunk out or suffer a traumatic loss of self-esteem. Should the requirement of a college degree remain a stumbling block to positions just because we’ve put them on a pedestal?