Despite ‘skills-based’ hiring push, employers overlook nontraditional candidates

Recruiting tools and processes may fail to consider workers without a four-year degree, panelists said during a June 28 joint EEOC and OFCCP webinar. Ryan GoldenSenior Reporter Despite signs that employers are willing to prioritize skills over educational attainment when recruiting, candidates with nontraditional work backgrounds continue to be overlooked, according to panelists at a virtual event hosted Tuesday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. A general trend over the past 20 years has seen businesses employ four-year degree requirements in their job descriptions, narrowing the field of potential candidates despite “hundreds of thousands of people” performing such jobs without a Bachelor’s degree, said Byron Auguste, CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit Opportunity@Work. Auguste and other panelists spoke about the need for employers to engage job candidates who are skilled through alternative routes, or STARs. These candidates, Auguste said, often are hindered by their backgrounds in pursuing advancements or face other barriers in the recruitment process even as less qualified, traditional candidates are favored. “People with advanced degrees are given much deeper roles that they may not be a fit for,” Auguste said. “This is a big problem for STARs, but it’s a bigger problem for [businesses] and employers.” A complete rebuild Resetting degree requirements for job posts is a strategy that predates the pandemic. A 2022 report by the Burning Glass Institute found that some 46% of middle-skill occupations and 31% of high-skill occupations saw degree requirements reset between 2017 and 2019. More recently, Maryland’s state government dropped four-year degree requirements for thousands of roles, and the push to hire for skills over degrees even received a shoutout at the 2022 State of the Union address. But employers seeking to expand opportunities to STARs may need to consider making more fundamental changes to the way they hire. That could mean a full reset of all positions, from top to bottom. That is the approach taken by one healthcare industry employer that partnered with OneTen, an executive coalition that focuses on closing opportunity gaps for Black talent in the U.S. Panelist Maurice Jones, OneTen’s CEO, said the employer initially sought to fill only a segment of roles, but after a period of just a few months, the company rebuilt all of its positions using what Jones called a “skills-first perspective.” In all, the company redesigned nearly 3,000 jobs. “That is what we’re looking for,” Jones said, noting the role that a central vision from leadership played in the effort. “It took the senior C-suite folks, hiring managers and people managers to say, ‘You know what? We should have been doing this years ago.’” Organizations already may have internal STARs who could benefit from clearer paths to advancement, Auguste said. Some barriers may be ingrained into pay structures and other facets of HR aside from the initial sourcing stage. For example, Auguste noted he has seen cases in which an employment contract states that an employer will pay less for someone who does not hold a college degree. “Companies are putting in a lot of barriers that they don’t need at all,” he said, adding that employers may want to create and expand internship and apprenticeship models for STARs. Screening and sourcingEmployers can broaden their reach in new ways thanks to the increased adoption of flexible work. Jones gave the example of a company based in the western U.S. that sought to open more opportunities for Black talent. Seeing a lack of such talent locally, the company decided to transition more of its jobs to remote status, allowing it to recruit nationwide, he said. For other organizations, the problem is not so much the availability of talent, but how that talent is screened. “You can’t see what you’re missing,” Auguste said. “Once you remove those barriers, now you can start to see.” Human recruiters may insert their biases into the process by defaulting to candidates with traditional credentials like a four-year degree. Even firms that have decided to eliminate four-year degree requirements can still fall into the trap of prioritizing candidates with those degrees, Jones said, citing another example of an employer OneTen worked with. “That was because of a bias, a mindset,” Jones said. “A four-year degree was the gold standard of telling them that this person can learn. It was a real, flawed mindset with respect to that particular credential.” But most companies don’t have a plan for exclusion, Auguste said. They may use hiring technology platforms that screen out non-traditional candidates by default. Such hurdles may require employers to check with their providers or otherwise perform additional analysis of screened candidates on the back end, said Emily Dickens, chief of staff, head of government affairs and corporate secretary for the Society for Human Resource Management. On the candidate side, Auguste said underrepresented groups of candidates “are more likely to read your job descriptions and say, ‘I don’t have that,’” which, he noted, is another reason why employers should “take the job description aspect of this seriously.” HR also may need to address hesitancy on the part of organizations to hire STARs. “If someone comes with 12 different reasons [not to hire STARs], there’s frankly something wrong,” Auguste said. As employers welcome more non-traditional candidates into their workforces and set them up to succeed, that risk aversion decreases over time, he added; “the successes pile up.” ‘These are all the things businesses say they need’ The pandemic has seen a number of employees making career changes from front-line roles in sectors such as the care economy and call centers to those in information technology, cybersecurity and other high-demand areas, Auguste said. That movement, he noted, is a testament to the resiliency and curiosity of these workers. “When you look at what essential workers have done in the pandemic … believe your eyes,” Auguste said. “That’s skills. That’s resourcefulness. These are all the things that businesses say they need.” However, panelists emphasized the need for alignment between HR executives, people managers and the C-suite. “It has to come from the

What’s So Scary About Critical Race Theory?

Critical race theory is an academic concept greater than 40 years old. The theory is centered on educating how race is a social construct, and that racism doesn’t originate in the individual, but rather has been embedded and fueled in our own legal system and policies. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, prominent CRT scholars emerged such as Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others. Most people are aware of the historic racism against blacks in the form of slavery, police brutality, and harassment by white supremacists, but fewer are aware of the economic barriers that have prevented black people from accessing a fair share and quality of living similar to white people. For instance, in the 1930s, government officials drew lines around areas noted as poor financial risks, often on the sole premise that their inhabitants were black residents. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas. Among the topics studied and discussed in CRT include: History of racially segregated schools and other public places The underfunding of majority-Black and Latino school districts disproportionate disciplining of Black students Barriers to gifted programs and selective-admission high schools curricula that reinforce racist ideas. 3 key opposition points to having CRT taught in schools include: Young white students can feel shame unnecessarily CRT teaches students to live in the past and not focus on the present CRT makes black students develop a victim mentality In a testimony on Thursday to a committee evaluating mental health in Kansas, Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican, said, “If you are confronted with the fact that because of the color of your skin you are racist, that can manifest shame.” Where Kristey Williams is wrong is the fact that true shame has to do with trying to hide history or its impact on the present day. Should we as a country feel shame for racism and unjustified deaths as a result of racism? The answer is yes. We should also feel shame for how we forced Native Americans off their own land and put Asian Americans especially Japanese-Americans in internment camps following the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Should these topics be avoided just because they make us as Americans feel shame? The answer is no. In a video posted by Middle Ground, black Americans debate many issues such as: People need to “get over” slavery Being black shouldn’t influence your political view Why should we support Black Lives Matter? All I have to do is walk out my front door and around my suburban block to see that the number of Blue Lives Matter signs dominate in yards over the number of Black Lives Matter signs. To me, the most disturbing part is that I develop preconceived beliefs about these Blue Lives Matter neighbors. Are the Blue Matters Movement neighbors upset because police officer deaths don’t get covered in the news as much? Do they think that black people get special victim treatment that is not given to white police officers? What would they think if I walked past their yard wearing a #BlackLivesMatter t-shirt? Would they curse under their breath, say something derogatory to me, or just ignore me? Would they still say, hi?  I’m not one for putting signs in my yard to attract attention, but if I were, I’d find a sign which combined Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter both in a heart. Might sound sentimental or too wishy-washy like I should be forced to choose between one or the other, but unity is what this world desperately needs right now. Our neighborhoods need to know that police should continue to care about improving Black lives, and that Black people should continue to care about restoring trust in the police and the polices’ lawful oath to protect our communities. Whether it be black unemployment rates, the low # of black CEO’s in today’s workforce, or the high # of black prisoners, there is a heck of a lot of work still to be done to improve living conditions for Black people across the board.  Look at the statistics below: What states have advocated for anti-CRT state legislation? See this list: Eight states (Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, and South Carolina) have passed legislation. None of the state bills that have passed even actually mention the words “critical race theory” explicitly, with the exception of Idaho. The legislations mostly ban the discussion, training, and/or orientation that the U.S. is inherently racist in addition to education about conscious and unconscious bias, privilege, discrimination, and oppression. State actors in Montana and South Dakota have denounced CRT teaching concepts. The state school boards in Florida, Georgia, Utah, and Oklahoma introduced new guidelines barring CRT-related discussions. Local school boards in Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia also criticized CRT. Nearly 20 additional states have introduced or plan to introduce similar legislation. What’s your stance? Should CRT be taught in schools? Let us know in our social posts!