This is a guest post by Zane Pucylowski , P.E.
Most people think that one of the first things all managers look at when hiring employees is their level of education. This line of thinking is becoming outdated. Employers are often seeking employees who have the skills for the job over education. Having a degree in the field is not the only key factor any longer. An employee with job skills and hands-on training is often more in demand than a person who only has a degree in the field.
Many times, a person having the right set of skills is more beneficial for the business than only having a degree. Teachers and parents have been preaching to students for decades the importance of getting a degree. That way of thinking has shifted in recent years. Well-known CEOs like Elon Musk and Jeff Weiner have gone on record many times saying companies need to pay more attention to skill sets than degrees.
A New Way of Thinking
Many companies will overlook a person’s lack of formal education if they see the candidate can do the job. Recently many industries have begun changing their mindset about degrees. These include mechanical, construction, manufacturing, and technical businesses.
The mindset of acquiring skills over receiving traditional education needs to begin at an early age. Educators and professionals recommend children as early as middle school get exposure to trade skills. Learning a trade can be beneficial for a person after they graduate high school because they will already know how to do the job and be ready to work in a growing field. It is important to remember that not all people will grow up to be lawyers, doctors, or financial advisors. The world will always need qualified trade workers in fields like construction, HVAC, mechanics, and manufacturing.
Until recently, trade skills were taught to be less desirable than degrees. Yet, they can lead to lucrative careers. Learning skills that translate to trade industries puts people in a place where they can get a job in a growing industry. It can be an opportunity to get a high-paying job without years invested and massive student loans owed. It could even lead to them starting their own business. Not all people need to go to a four-year school.
Skills Show Employers More Than Ability
The skills a person possesses will teach you more about them than if they perform well in school. You can learn a lot about a candidate by seeing the skills they have acquired rather than what degree they received. To understand this concept let’s say a person comes in for a technical position interview. When I interview prospective candidates, I ask them to solve a basic technical problem. If the candidate solves the problem this shows that they have the basic knowledge needed for the position.
A successful candidate also needs communication, time management, teamwork, and leadership skills. If a person doesn’t have these skills, then their level of education doesn’t matter. Having a degree can show a person’s technical capabilities and ability to learn. It offers no glimpse into a person’s personality or how well they will fit into the culture of your business.
Skills Show Experience
When a person is entering the workforce, they most likely have a few years of experience under their belt that do not relate to a degree. Internships, part-time jobs, even military experience shows they have skills and behaviors a degree cannot. These soft skills are key and are not often learned in formal education.
If a candidate doesn’t have a traditional education, it is important to focus on their skills. This will help you determine if they are a good fit for your business. Focusing on a person’s skill set will help you better test the person and show if they can perform the job at a high level. For example, if a business is looking for a pipefitter to join the team, they are going to be more prone to hire someone who can show their work. Rather than showing a certificate just saying they have the qualifications.
Skills come first when hiring for technical roles. If a person can show they have the knowledge and skills necessary for the position, then they are going to be a better fit. If they have soft skills, they may be a better fit for the company culture. Only having a degree showing a person has learned about the theory is becoming not enough for the person to get the position. Experience always beats formal education. Identifying a person’s overall skills allows you to hire the right person for the job who can start immediately and be effective.
About the Author:
Zane Pucylowski is the President and Principal Engineer atPhoenix Engineering and Consulting, Inc. in Woodstock, Georgia. He is also a part-time faculty member teaching senior design in the Mechatronic Engineering department at Kennesaw State University.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success