Degrees aren’t needed for tech jobs

By Paul Burani

Maryland just eliminated four-year college degree requirements for thousands of state jobs. State agencies can now “substitute relevant experience, training, and/or community college education for a four-year degree.”

While it’s an important step in the right direction, the real work to create true hiring equity is just beginning around the country. That change can and should start in the technology industry, a usual bastion of innovation.

CompTIA estimates that the country will add 178,000 new tech jobs this year alone. These are well-paying, family-sustaining jobs that, on average, pay 125% more than the median national wage in the U.S.

But, creating those jobs and filling them are two different things. In a recent survey from Deloitte and Fortune, nearly 75% of CEOs are concerned about the way labor and skills shortages will influence their business strategy in the next year. This concern ranked higher than those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, education-based hiring isn’t creating enough viable candidates for all the technology roles that companies need to fill.

This is why dropping a resume or education requirement is desperately needed in the private sector. It’s what we’ve done at Catalyte for over 20 years: use technology to source and develop talent, regardless of educational background or pedigree.

Success in today’s job market takes a certain combination of aptitude and attitude which is not exclusive to college graduates. The people who possess this virtuous combination might be ringing up your groceries or preparing your caramel frappuccino today, but their eyes are squarely on the future. They develop with fundamentals like Java, Python and .NET. They know how to design databases and operate within cloud-based platforms like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.

Identifying and hiring people who can quickly master these skills creates unprecedented opportunity for historically excluded populations. The technology industry is notorious (though hardly unique) for its poor track record in diversity, equity and inclusion. Just 11% of software developers are Black or Hispanic/Latinx, compared to 31% of the total national labor market. Just 20% are women. Tech industry titans like Google, Apple and Meta have made public commitments to bring their employee bases into alignment with the country’s demographics. However, they have difficulty putting these principles into practice.

To help correct the economic imbalances that persist in America today, we need to create better pathways for these bright minds to acquire new skills and put them to use. Government has shown us the path forward. The responsibility now sits with private companies, to move past the myth that only college-educated employees can thrive in a corporate environment.

When you’re ready to take that step and work with more productive and diverse tech talent, Catalyte is here to help.

Paul Burani is Catalyte’s vice president of business development and strategy

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