Bill Gates And His Foundation: Employers Should Focus On Skills -- NOT College Degrees

Bill GatesAPBill Gates

The Gates Foundation is encouraging employers to do something called “skills-based hiring” as an alternative to hiring based on college degrees.

By using a college degree as a requirement, employers are automatically overlooking people that are capable but have no degree.

Ultimately, this isn’t helping the employer, the workforce or the economy, Angela Cobb argued in a blog posted by the Gates Foundation on Monday.

Research from the Aspen Institute points out that despite the high unemployment rate, nearly 3 million U.S. jobs are unfilled because employers can’t find people with the right skills, Cobb points out.

So the Gates Foundation, in connection with an organisation called Innovate+Educate, is working on a program called the New Options Project, lead by Cobb. It acts like an alternative to a traditional college education, somewhat like a cross between a vocational school and an exam. Employers in a region can work with the program to develop a skills-based credentialing system. People can take the test to show mastery of a skill or aptitude and get more training from there.

Innovate+Educate says skills-based hiring fills jobs faster than traditional methods, and finds candidates who need less training and are less likely to quit.

“Ultimately, our hope is that this method will help to level the playing field and give everyone a shot at having a fulfilling career regardless of past education or work experience,” writes Cobb.

Gates himself famously never finished college and he’s a fan of this approach, as he told Fast Company’s Anya Kamenetz in April:

“The ideal there is creating a skills-based credential that is well trusted and well understood enough that employers view it as a true alternative to a degree,” he said.

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