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Skills over qualifications: the future of work?

Over in America, a lot of service staff lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. US citizens couldn’t rely on a furlough programme as generous as our own, so many of them started looking for work.


At the same time, LinkedIn was looking for new members to join their customer service team. Someone came up with the idea to assess the skillset of the unemployed service staff, and they found something extraordinary. It turned out that the staff already had about 70% of the skills needed to work in LinkedIn’s call centres.


Instead of thinking solely about a candidate’s existing qualifications, they put them on training programmes to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. And the entire process was quicker and more efficient than before.


In fact, this ‘Skills Path’ initiative was so successful that they’ve started to export it to other companies. They recently partnered with the retailer Gap to improve their hiring processes.


At a time when diversity and inclusion are gaining prominence in companies, this is welcome news. Traditional ways of measuring competence rely heavily on academic attainment. This can blind employers to a great number of candidates who lack the qualifications but might attain the skills to do a particular job. Greater access to the jobs market for capable candidates means a better talent pool, which in turn leads to a more competent workforce.


With the emergence of online training that we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, it’s easier than ever to upskill a team member to an appropriate level. And retraining is only going to grow in importance: the Financial Times is reporting that 40% of workers’ skills are expected to change in the next five years.


Can we actually afford to keep a static model that relies on university education and work experience? Do we really want to miss out on someone’s potentially fantastic contributions just because they didn’t go to university? Or do we need to accept that skills are the most important facet of any job and find a more holistic way of measuring them?


There’s no easy answer to this question. University is a fantastic way of acquiring skills, and online training courses are far from perfect. But it would be a shame to develop all these great digital tools only to keep our hiring practices the same. These tools can create new opportunities and break down old patterns of thinking. Businesses can improve access – and their hiring efficiency – by embracing them more fully.


At this year’s UK Business Awards, we’ll be hearing from the most forward-thinking companies in the country across 26 categories, and E-Learning is one such category. We can’t wait to hear how organisations have been using digital to create the high-skill workforce of tomorrow. So, if this applies to your company, and if you’ve done outstanding work in any of our other categories, now is the time to enter!


You have until May 7th to join the UK Business Awards with an early bird registration discount – enter now!