Is studying at a university a must these days?

Is studying at a university a must these days?

If you have been following my articles on education and entrepreneurship, you would be surprised to see me write such an article.
As an educator and motivator for learning and development, I would hardly ever say to anyone that you don’t need to go to university to get a job. I am not sure why I always encourage young people to go study at a university. But, if I were coaching myself, I would admit that it is partly because of tradition, cultural influence or even my survival. I say survival because I am a university lecturer and where would I be if students stopped attending university?
Having said that, I have been hearing lately that more companies are no longer looking for university degrees when hiring, rather they are looking for skills.
In a Gizmodo article published at the start of the year, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said: “It’s important that tech companies focus on hiring people with valuable skills, not just people with college degrees.” I must admit that Rometty makes sense, but is this idea going to catch on?
Fast forward to July 2019 and I read another article, from Inside Higher ED, that said Amazon would spend $700 million over six years to retrain 100,000 of its employees for jobs within the company and beyond, in a move to offer its employees post-secondary credentials that will bypass studying at traditional universities.
Then I started reading that Amazon is not alone in doing this. Google and other big companies are making similar moves, which raises important questions: Do our young people need to study at universities to get a job? Or do we just let these big companies take care of our young, educating and training them in a non-traditional way, as they see fit?
Let’s be honest. Most of us attend university or college to get a job. So, what if we get a job and the company educates us about it? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I am trying to think out loud and encourage my readers to think with me about the implications of the move to non-traditional education.
Let’s take Amazon for example. Its move away from traditional education means they are willing to hire people without post-secondary qualifications, because they will train the candidate on what they need them to do.
So, what kind of training will the candidates get? How will they choose to hire candidates for the job? In my opinion, as a certified psychometrician, assessments are going to play a big role here. I think they would assess the candidates on their personality and skills, what they like and dislike, and afterwards assign them to a specific department that aligns with their assessment results, after which a training program can be devised to develop the skills needed to perform the job they were hired to do.
This approach of by-passing post-secondary education is a game-changer for us all. Human resources personnel will be responsible for not only hiring these candidates, but developing a training program for these new hires. This is something that HR has traditionally been doing, but now its the candidates’ future at stake. Will HR act for the benefit of the company only, or act for the benefit of the candidates’ in terms of designing a training program the employee can benefit from even if they leave the company and go to another one? Meaning, will the employees benefit from the training they receive for future jobs in other companies? Will this training be valuable and have value in the job market in a way that other companies recognize?
I think these giant companies are disrupting the market, not only in terms of their product offerings and services, but they will disrupt our education, training and development and put more pressure on HR to deliver good quality employees. This is of course, if HR still continues to function as we know it today. Or will it, too, be disrupted? What I can be sure of is that the international labor market and human capital will be run under new management very soon!

Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, an international public speaker and an entrepreneurship mentor.

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