Several years ago, Ryan Tillman-French’s résumé would likely have ended up in the trash. Until last summer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt screened out web developer applicants who lacked a four-year degree.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wasn’t alone in that practice. The previous decade saw a spike in the number of job listings requiring a bachelor’s degree, even for so-called middle-skills jobs — think executive secretaries, production supervisors, IT help-desk workers — that have traditionally been filled by workers with an associate degree or less. Analysts say that this “degree inflation,” as they call it, has shrunk opportunities for upward mobility for Americans without four-year degrees.
But now some workforce organizations, researchers and regional civic leaders are pushing back — persuading companies to look beyond academic credentials and to instead hire people based on their skills. A growing number of businesses are listening. In the past few years, Apple, Google, IBM and other high-profile companies have stripped the bachelor’s degree requirement from many of their positions.
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