Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Knowledge is not enough

I just finished a book called Proving You’re Qualified and a book called Training Yourself: the 21st Century Credential, both by Charles D. Hayes, and found a huge gap in his premise.

I looked into a website called Zero Tuition College and another called UnCollege and found that both suffer from the same missing element as Mister Hayes’ books.

A credential is important not for the knowledge it supposedly represents, but for the person you are talking to. Only a small percentage of the work force will end up starting their own business and following in the footsteps of Bill Gates to succeed without a degree.

While everyone may aspire to start their own business or work for that super startup, big companies have lots of employees so that is where the bulk of the jobs are. HR departments in big companies are swamped with applicants and are scared to death of making a mistake and recommending a “bad” candidate.

That being true, the poor HR clerk reviewing applicants is looking for a quick and safe way to wade through that mountain of resumes. The first thing they can do that is fast and safe is to screen for an accredited degree. What can be safer than saying to your boss, “She must know how to do the work, she has a degree in that very thing from XYZ College.”

If you pursue self-education as recommended in both books, how do you prove to perspective employers that you really can do the work? While a portfolio (even as an online website) works well for designers, photographers or artists this non-traditional approach really doesn’t work very well for engineers or mangers.

While Mr. Hayes is absolutely correct in his ascertain that everyone will have to invest significant time and energy in continuing their professional education, even that must come with some kind of recognized credential. Why? Because when it comes time to assign work or look for the worker ready for promotion, your boss is going to look for that same safe and easy differentiator as he or she does when hiring a new candidate.

A qualification that they can point to so that when their boss asks why they picked that that person, they have some recognized “thing” to point to; something beyond the selector’s opinion that this is the right applicant.

While there is much to support the position that far too many people graduating from college today have memorized facts that they forget as soon as the test is over, no one has yet come up with a better way to prove that people have at least “read the book” than a degree.

Yes, a person’s demonstrated experience could be used. But remember that the screener is looking for a fast, safe way to select candidates. Reading resumes is not fast; you can’t really read a resume in the time it takes to scan for a degree. It’s not safe; the screener has to make a judgment call as to which experience is relevant and how complete the experience seems to be.

Before the current system can be replaced, someone is going to have to come up with a new credentialing system to replace or tap into the current system that will validate experience gained outside the current formal classrooms.

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