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Why More Tech Companies Are Hiring People Without Degrees

Source | FastCompany : By CALE GUTHRIE WEISSMAN

One of Donald Trump’s loudest–and likely most impossible to fulfill–promises is to bring back coal jobs. He has made this appeal to people whose factory skills aren’t in demand anymore and likely don’t have the secondary education necessary to enter into other industries.

Whether or not more coal jobs are created, this need has started a conversation about laborers with different educational backgrounds. Silicon Valley should be a leader in this conversation. For years, the tech pipeline has been fed mostly from the same elite universities. This has created a feedback loop of talent and a largely homogenous workplace. As a result, tech continues to stumble when it comes to diversity.

The technology industry is now trying to figure out a way to attack its cultural and demographic homogeneity issues. One simple initiative is to begin to recruit talent from people outside of its preferred networks. One way is to extend their recruiting efforts to people who don’t have four-year degrees.


IBM’s head of talent organization, Sam Ladah, calls this sort of initiative a focus on “new-collar jobs.” The idea, he says, is to look toward different applicant pools to find new talent. “We consider them based on their skills,” he says, and don’t take into account their educational background. This includes applicants who didn’t get a four-year degree but have proven their technical knowledge in other ways. Some have technical certifications, and others have enrolled in other skills programs. “We’ve been very successful in hiring from [coding] bootcamps,” says Ladah.

For IT roles, educational pedigree often doesn’t make a huge difference. For instance, many gaming aficionados have built their own systems. With this technical grounding, they would likely have the aptitude to be a server technician or a network technician. These roles require specific technical knowledge, not necessarily an academic curriculum vitae. “We’re looking for people who have a real passion for technology,” says Ladah. He goes on to say that currently about 10% to 15% of IBM’s new hires don’t have traditional four-year degrees.

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