Michigan company drops college degree requirement — it’s not the only one

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Kaitlyn Ziehm had no art training, no printing experience, and no graphic design degree.

But she recently became a print project manager for commercial printer Pontiac Company Folders, Inc.

“You’d think you’d need some sort of education or at least extensive experience beforehand, but that’s not necessarily the case all the time,” Ziehm said. “I’m thriving and had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started.”

As Ziehm learned on the job and a list of marketing executives answered, Company Folders CEO Vladimir Gendelman began to rethink hiring.

“Most of what we do is more skill-based than education. It was like a light bulb: why do we even need it? Let’s completely forget about college degrees for business,” he said. he declares.

Since late August, Company Folders — a company that has worked with thousands of organizations including Google, Amazon and Ford — no longer requires applicants to have a college degree.

It joins a growing number of companies.

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Tech companies like Google, Apple, Accenture and IBM are now prioritizing experience over a four-year degree. General Motors dropped its college education requirements for some roles earlier this year. And the researchers say an era of “degree inflation” is turning into a “degree reset.”

“Employers are resetting degree requirements across a wide range of roles, removing the requirement for a bachelor’s degree in many mid-skills positions and even some higher-skills positions,” a February Burning Glass report said. Institute, a nonprofit research group; Emsi Burning Glass, a work analytics company; and Harvard Business School.

Analyzing 51 million job postings, researchers found that degree requirements rose by 46% of mid-skilled jobs and 31% of high-skilled jobs between 2017 and 2019. And an Indeed survey of 502 US employers revealed that 59% would consider reducing the requirement. in the future.

At Company Folders, Ziehm was first hired as a junior editor last year before moving into an executive assistant role and most recently becoming a print project manager. Although she has a bachelor’s degree in English from Wayne State University, other print project managers have degrees in art or graphic design.

“I may have (a diploma), but I don’t necessarily use it. I’m successful, I’m moving up the chain and I think anyone can do it,” she said.

Ziehm was trained on the job, using Adobe Creative Suite, watching YouTube videos, asking questions, making mistakes, and eventually figuring it out. As a print project manager, Ziehm is responsible for customer service, understanding the ins and outs of print and graphic design.

“She has no background in graphic design and printing, and she knew nothing about art. But she started learning and right now she’s about as good as anybody else,” Gendelman said.

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Gendelman then reviewed the roughly two dozen positions on the company’s file and found that none necessarily required a college education. And many of its employees had four-year degrees unrelated to their current roles.

“The requirement was there because it was there,” he said. “You know how sometimes we do things just because we do things?”

Removing college education requirements could help American companies fill 11.2 million current job openings, especially since only 38% of working adults have a four-year degree.

A May survey by Cengage Group, an education technology company, found that 65% of employers are struggling to hire. Of these, two-thirds believe that removing educational requirements could address staffing gaps.

Yet most still require a degree, with about 26% doing so because the requirements “filter the talent pool” or “this is how it’s always been done.”

“A lot of other companies should take the same kind of step forward, especially with some places understaffed these days,” Ziehm said. “I think a lot of the reasons people are blocked from finding employees is because they have this college degree requirement.”

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Based on current trends, Burning Glass researchers predict that 1.4 million jobs could be open to workers without a college degree over the next five years.

Despite this movement, a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that workers with bachelor’s degrees continued to have access to “higher-paying occupations.” But the researchers say this income inequality can be addressed with “on-the-job training” for those without a degree.

For Gendelman, he now prioritizes experience, skills and a “thirst to learn” over a college education.

“From my point of view, it is advantageous for companies because they can have access to different types of talent. But I also believe in giving a fair chance to people who don’t have a college education,” he said.

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