Prosple co-founders Jeff Duncan and Richard McKeon talked about their vision of the future at the 2020 Australian Association of Graduate Employers Conference.
“Big degrees” could end up being just one of many paths to qualifying for graduate jobs, according to Prosple co-founders Jeff Duncan and Richard McKeon. They recently walked through the limitations of traditional degrees, how ‘stacked’ microcredentials could overcome those limitations and where and when we’re likely to see changes in graduate recruitment.
In this post we’ll summarise the key points, but in case you want to watch the whole presentation, watch the video below. We’ll then finish with questions Jeff and Richard were asked.
Big degrees; bigger costs
The presentation began with an overview of three challenges traditional “big degrees” struggle to address.
- In many industries, degree programs don’t match the pace of change. Computer science degrees exemplify this, with new programming languages coming into vogue year on year.
- Degrees are a barrier to recruitment, particularly when it comes to recruiting Indigenous, remote, regional or in other ways underserved students. They’re expensive and hard to access.
- Credentials fraud. Despite many employers requiring degrees, only a minor proportion check their candidates’ credentials.
Even high school students suffer from these challenges. The most reliable indicator a high school student has about an employer’s hiring preferences are the kinds of degrees they hire from. Should a high school student wish to become a strategy consultant, they may decide upon an engineering degree solely because within that 5 or 6 years of study are embedded the qualities these firms seek, as their hiring trends seem to confirm. So students end up learning a vast amount of information irrelevant to their needs.
According to our current thinking, building a passport of microcredentials (‘stacking’ them) solves all these challenges:
- Having targeted microcredentials removes the disconnect between training and real-world skills. It would be possible for job applicants of the future to take short courses in skills precisely relevant to the roles they want to apply for, without worrying their skills will be redundant by the time they finish. Employers can indicate which skills (and thereby credentials) are relevant to each of their positions.
- Education would be democratised. By bringing down the cost and time barrier, underprivileged but nevertheless highly capable applicants would have a fair go.
- Blockchain-administered, secure badges make each credential transparent and nigh-on immune to fraud.
This new model lets that aspiring strategy consultant select the skills they need and be job-ready in 5 months instead of 5 years.
When and where will we see stacked microcredentials?
It’s likely that ‘traditional’ employment pathways (CV + degree) will coexist with new alternatives for years to come before significant changes to the status quo come to pass.
Regarding where we’re likely to see these changes, tech is an obvious starting point, as that’s where this change is already happening. Companies like Google, Amazon and Apple already offer microcredentials they recognise as job-ready. Google’s hiring managers see one of their $300 short courses as equivalent to a four-year university computer science degree. And when it comes to a tech knowledge gap, creating your own short course can solve it.
But in highly regulated industries, such as medicine or teaching, microcredentials aren’t an adequate solution yet, as credentials for these industries need to be airtight and cautiously maintained.
Questions and answers
Recruitment strategies are usually heavily influenced by senior leadership who often believe that “big degree” holders are the “best” graduates to hire. These same leaders are often also asking grad recruiters to improve the diversity and inclusion of grad hires. How do we educate the leadership teams that many minorities don’t have equal access to university and that we need to increase accessibility to be truly more diverse and inclusive?
Do you think, in the future, we might drop the label of "Graduate" in favour of more inclusive terminology (e.g. Junior Talent, Early careers, New careers etc)?
What about the softer skills acquired at uni, the social rites of passage, the life long networks that are created by communal living and study etc... how do these fare in a more transactional world?
And all this doesn’t need to be tied up in a degree. If the end-game is building soft skills and life skills, there are better ways to do that than drinking at the uni bar!
Will we see an increase in students being employed directly from high schools and a drop in university student hires?
So if many degrees are becoming irrelevant, is it likely that employers will hire for skills not experience/qualifications?
Where do you see microcreds coming into industries where legally you need a certain qualification to practice, i.e. engineering?
Ultimately, it will be up to each industry to decide what level of regulation needs to stay.