What is the value of college degrees, really? For many IT employers, the answer is “less than we originally thought”.
In an attempt to cope with an increasingly tight labor market and realizing that they can find qualified software engineers outside the pool of college graduates, many IT companies have accelerated the removal of degree requirements from their Jobs.
The trend was described in a recent report by The Burning Glass Institute and is found in the hiring practices of major US technology companies such as Google, Apple, Accenture, Microsoft and IBM. The last declared in January last year, it had removed educational requirements from about half of its tech job postings in the United States and that it had begun to “re-evaluate our roles to give priority to skills over specific diplomas”.
“[At Bellatrix] we never asked for an official diploma. We have always relied on reviews”—Luis Robbio, CSO at Egg Cooperation
A similar trend can be observed in the Nearshore. Clothing Company Express, for example, launched a recruitment campaign for its new technology site in Costa Rica. The company is looking for data engineers, mobile developers, and more, looking for prospects with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or an “equivalent combination of coursework and work experience.” In contrast, he requires a bachelor’s degree for his position as a human resources manager, going so far as to list an MBA as a preferred qualification.
The debate is heating up in the tech world as the job market continues to tighten. And in the Nearshore, the subject takes another angle. Even though the region has benefited immensely from the willingness of IT companies to seek talent outside of their territory, some experts fear that in an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand, the Nearshore tech ecosystem is becoming complacent and stagnating.
Driven by the Crunch
One of the main drivers of credential disregard in tech hires is the low supply of talent in the face of growing demand for tech services. Governments, universities and companies in Latin America and the Caribbean are doing what they can to produce as many engineers and programmers as possible, but the process is too slow for the pace of the industry.
“[At Bellatrix] we never asked for an official diploma. We have always relied on reviews. This confirms our focus on skills rather than degrees,” commented Luis Robbio, Sales Director at Egg Cooperation and former CEO of Bellatrix Software. “To tell the truth, at least in Argentina, careers have become terribly long and have lost their ability to adapt to the changing technological landscape. People don’t arrive in time”.
Robbio is himself a formally trained engineer. Still, he said his college education could have taken half the time without missing out on industry-relevant skills. Furthermore, he added, “someone without a degree can acquire [knowledge] throughout his career because he’s in an environment that pushes for it.
Indeed, IT companies are increasingly willing to take the issue of education into their own hands. Google, for example, is notoriously insistent on upskilling its engineers, especially in highly skilled areas such as cloud computing and AI. Other companies have launched internship programs with universities in an effort to secure and accelerate the flow of engineering graduates.
There is also a camp that argues for skills over degrees from a socio-economic perspective. Latin America and the Caribbean are notorious for their high levels of disparity compared to other regions of the world and even within their own borders. Quality higher education may be inaccessible to the less fortunate of its population, dashing their hopes for a technology education and the possibility of a better life.
“For the industry to tackle the talent gap and provide better job options for young people, we should start opening up the field of hiring, lowering those filters a bit – sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit –” , said Alberto Peniche, National Director of Mexico for the International Youth Foundation (IYF). “It will give visibility to segments of the population who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, who aren’t college engineers, but also have a lot to offer.”
“We also need to look at recruitment strategies in other countries, where they’re not necessarily looking for engineering graduates to fill entry-level positions. here [in Mexico]we are still trapped in our elitist bias when it comes to recruitment mechanisms,” he added.
“Here [in Mexico]we are still trapped in our elitist bias when it comes to recruitment mechanisms”—Alberto Peniche, Mexico Country Director, IYF
Adam Fenton, co-founder and chief technical officer of Nolte, agrees, saying lowering the bridge for non-graduates could help efforts to create a more diverse talent pool.
“I think software engineering is a practical skill, not an academic one,” he commented. “If someone has the skills and experience you need, their education doesn’t really matter. I think it’s a more inclusive approach that will help build more diverse teams.”
While opting for skills over degrees could alleviate the IT talent shortage in the Nearshore and open up opportunities for a segment of its population without access to college degrees, some experts in the field worry that this approach will overlook skills development. more theoretical. , specialized and hold a higher market value.
“In some cases, a background in systems science or engineering brings great value,” said Andres Vior, secretary of the Buenos Aires IT cluster. “Creating complex data structures, assembling distributed architectures, synchronizing processes, and optimizing algorithms are a few examples where an organized thought structure and a solid theoretical foundation make a significant difference.”
Vior understands the forces behind the trend from skills to degrees. For this reason, he added, “each specific need or role must be considered in order to identify whether, given the current talent shortage, additional requirements are warranted.”
“One thing that absolutely needs to happen is to bring back the importance of traditional education, higher education” – Ashish Patel, CEO of Simpat Tech
Some companies are doing what they can to address the low supply of tech talent while pushing for college degrees. Simpat Tech, for example, is betting strong on low code/no code systems to fill some of the talent gaps. Yet its CEO, Ashish Patel, said he still believed in the value of “traditional education”.
“One thing that absolutely needs to happen is to bring back the importance of traditional education, higher education. We see a lot of people giving up on that to take three-month courses and try to get into the job market he said in a Q&A with NSAM in Nexus 2022. “It hasn’t brought us much luck. We need more people going through this process in the tech space.”
The problem could go beyond the problems of a group of companies. Some experts believe that with growing demand for more specialized technology products and services, and as the global landscape becomes more competitive, Nearshore should focus on upgrading its talent pool.
The risks of not doing so have been pointed out by leaders of the tech ecosystem in Jalisco, one of Mexico’s oldest and finest. If the region becomes complacent with its current low-cost model for mid-skilled labor, it could fall into the same pitfalls as Mexican manufacturing.
Although he finds himself in the higher skills camp, Fenton recognizes the value that a better understanding of IT can bring to individuals and the regional ecosystem. Again, he added, skills such as deeper knowledge of algorithms can be learned outside the classroom.
What the future holds
The Burning Glass Institute report expects the trend of skills beyond degrees “may last for some time, if not become permanent” for middle-skilled jobs and some higher-level jobs as the labor market tightens even more for technology.
The trend could accelerate if the industry giants continue, turning it into the norm and forcing the competition to catch up. IBM and Accenture are already moving faster toward removing degree requirements from their job postings. Apple and Google still mostly favor college-educated engineers, but they are also refocusing their hiring practices, according to the report.
While businesses and job prospects could benefit, the trend could deal a heavy blow to higher education institutions and other skills providers. These “must innovate by partnering with leading employers, introducing more blended and work-based learning programs and developing platforms to share programs with other institutions if they hope to avoid to fall even further behind the state of the art in jobs based on digital technology. “, underlines the report.
In addition, they need to integrate social and soft skills into their curricula, given the growing relevance of these in industry.