Sunday, January 12, 2014
Wise and worldly readers -- especially those in HR -- how do you determine degree requirements for jobs? And should we rethink them?
By hand-holding I don't necessarily mean only face to face support; I also mean things like very detailed syllabi and study guides, e-mail reminders of upcoming quizzes, extra credit opportunities, and a whole range of actions meant to rescue students from themselves and/or force them to focus on the parts of a course that will certainly count for a grade.
There is not a standard pathway for workers in IT. During the recession, employers have shifted pretty sharply in favor of four-year degrees, but the people in the field come from a variety of backgrounds: some have no college education, others have graduate degrees. Some people have certifications, others abhor them. Some people learned on the job, others had access to good technical training or degree programs with a strong practical focus. In addition, IT degrees with a focus on networking, system administration or security are still fairly new and not widely available at brick and mortar schools. Traditional computer science programs are geared more for software development that the roles more commonly available outside of large companies and the tech industry. A CS degree is useful background, but most if it is not directly applicable to these roles. MIS degrees are focused on system analyst and business support roles and are even less useful for networking, system administration and security roles.
I have several people working for me right now that have the potential to excel in higher roles, but I can't move them up unless they go back to school first. Their actual job performance is irrelevant.
I would like to believe that in the long run, thinking will win out, but I am prepared to be disappointed.
Since most people can be trained for most non-engineering jobs in six months anyway, hire for flexibility, basic capacity to learn, and initiative. Which has little to do with credentials. It's better to have a workplace with few conflicts than almost any other outcome, since conflict is so unbelievably expensive. You're looking for a state of mind much more than a set of capacities, unless you literally lack the technical ability anywhere else in the organization.