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Skills, Not Schools. It Took a Pandemic and BLM to Get Employers Looking at New Ways to Hire

  • Publication: 
    Los Angeles Times
    January 23, 2022

    “Skills, not schools” might not be the best-known motto of our times, but it’s increasingly popular among employers. A growing number are willing to consider applicants for well-paid, white-collar jobs based on what they can do rather than on whether they hold a bachelor’s degree.

    COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement are proving potent forces that are starting to move the needle in the right direction. The pandemic created a labor shortage that prompted businesses to rethink their job requirements. And the push for racial equity has persuaded a hefty number of employers to commit to a more diverse workforce. With more than half of Black college students dropping out of college, it makes sense to hire on the basis of abilities rather than degrees.

    An effort called OneTen was launched at the end of 2020 by leaders at Merck and IBM, with a goal of getting a million Black workers who lack four-year degrees hired or promoted this decade. The aim is for them to find “family-sustaining” careers, with an emphasis on hiring for skills. More than 50 employers have signed on. The Rework American Business Network, an initiative of the Markle Foundation, has been prodding employers to place more emphasis on skills when hiring. It has drawn a handful of member businesses so far — but they’re big ones, including AT&T, Kaiser Permanente and Microsoft.

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