For a long time, society valued graduation. Receiving a certificate was a token of success, a milestone in a life. Today, however, it seems that the view of the diploma has changed a bit. Sure, it's still important to get one, but many graduates still have trouble landing in the job market.
Also, news in 2020 and 2021 has led many observers to wonder whether those promoted during covid-19 would acquire truncated or less valuable certifications. Debates have been held on this question and few seem to be able to agree on an answer. We ourselves have shown the different points of view. Yet the conclusion was meant to be more positive than negative, especially because employers are looking less and less at graduation.
I don't want to see your degree but your experiences
More than ever in recruitment, the degree alone is no longer enough. It may be a testament to a person's success in his or her course of study and personal discipline, but it doesn't indicate much more. Yet recruiters now want candidates to come in with skills. A degree is still an admission criterion, to be sure, but it no longer has that aura of superiority. Companies routinely hire individuals who are less "qualified" but meet expectations for personal skills.
That's why the graduates of 2020 or 2021 won't necessarily be seen as understudies. They have been through a difficult ordeal, a global pandemic, and in many cases have had to develop skills of resilience, organization, stress management, etc. Those who have worked on these skills may even be more highly regarded than those who graduated before or after the health crisis.
In the U.S., the issue is even more acute in this country where higher education is very expensive. More and more Americans surveyed are skeptical about the value of receiving a bachelor's or master's degree. While the numbers show that graduates make more money than those without a college education, college enrollment is quietly falling. Graduation is still worth the cost in some fields and states. That is, however, not the case in other areas that are more rural or have resource extraction-based economies.
As a result, while the monetary benefits of the programs are shrinking, some are turning to shorter certifications that blend the best of both worlds. These trainings offer skills that are in demand by employers while taking much less time to complete and costing much less. This works very well in Australia, among other places.
A disconnected academia?
As potential students increasingly analyze the costs and benefits of a university certification, many observers see it as a failure of the university to stay connected to the professional world. Sure, it's not just for creating workers, but technically it should be working toward that goal, too.
Or, research, such as this Canadian one, shows the shortcomings of faculties in providing training that offers skills demanded by professional settings. According to the researchers, one in five Ontario students graduate from university lacking the minimum knowledge levels defined by the OECD in literacy and numeracy.
So what approach should higher education take to graduation? Should we look for the bottom line of every single senior? For Normand Baillargeon, that would be based on "capability," or the actual freedom of an individual to perform acts that are meaningful to him.
Others suggest that the university offer more diverse experiences for each of its faculties. Especially since research shows that students with more diverse experiences will be better able to increase the value of their certification with employers. The whole issue of networking should also not be forgotten. For many learners, this is the more important aspect even than graduation since their campus has allowed them to meet not only potential colleagues but also professors and professionals in the trades they want to pursue.
Illustration : Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
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