Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
London, United Kingdom (4E) – A surprising new study shows most employers in the United Kingdom place greater weight on “job readiness” instead of formal academic credentials.
The study published in the Journal of Education Policy challenges existing theories that higher levels of formal education determine the result of jobs competition in the UK labor market. It analyzed more than 21 million UK job advertisements based on labor market analytics and found that only 18 percent of job ads specified a qualification requirement.
Employers were also more likely to highlight social qualifications, specific skills and cognitive abilities such as organizational skills or time management in their recruitment ads. These attributes are aspects that signal job readiness.
The study reveals that employers look for a wide range of technical and social skills in new employees. Employers emphasized performance rather than assuming academic squalifications equal the skills they needed, or indicated that candidates would be easier to train.
The focus on job readiness rather than trainability indicates employers are looking for ways to reduce training costs and shorten the time it takes for newly-hired employees to make a productive contribution to the company.
It also emphasizes the need for job candidates to develop marketable skills of immediate value to employers. This outcome helps explain the increasing popularity and importance of high quality internships in Britain.
There is, however, little to suggest that a reduced emphasis on academic credentials will lead to a reduction in class-based inequalities in the competition for jobs.
The study noted that candidates with greater financial, cultural and social resources will likely maintain a major advantage when specific skills and personal traits not a central part of formal education are perceived as an important part of what it means to be job ready.
The study’s findings call for a fresh discussion on the meaning of merit and fairness in the relationship between education and the labor market. This is especially relevant at a time when government reforms in the UK are premised on the assumption that increasing intergenerational social mobility can be achieved by widening access to higher education.
The research was led by Professor Phillip Brown and Professor Manuel Souto-Otero of Cardiff University.
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