Monday, December 25, 2017

USA: Is a Bachelor's degree the new IQ test?

People like to point to IQ as a predictor of success (often based on studies done in the US military)  often failing to note that the IQ test serves as the filter at the very entry into the career.

Now, it seems that the Bachelor's Degree is serving a similar role, per my reading of this article in The Atlantic.

The employers who can’t seem to fill the United States’s roughly 6 million vacant jobs are at a loss for what to do. Qualified candidates are seemingly nowhere to be found.

Companies hiring for what would traditionally be classified as middle-skill positions (those that economists define as requiring a high-school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree, such as bookkeeping or a secretary) today often say they require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. They see such degrees as an indication of whether an applicant has a range of skills they’re looking for, like the ability to communicate effectively or program computers. In 2015, almost 70 percent of job postings for production supervisors (people who oversee the production operations in manufacturing or other industrial environments), for example, asked for a bachelor’s degree even though only 16 percent of the workers already employed in that occupation had one, according to a report by the Harvard Business School. The report estimates that more than 6 million jobs——interestingly, the same number as those that are vacant— are at risk of degree inflation. focusing their hiring efforts only on college graduates, many employers are overlooking pools of qualified applicants—a habit that’s mutually detrimental in that it can both undermine the company’s economic health and deprive promising Americans of opportunities in which they’d otherwise thrive.
There is an economic reason why companies rely on a bachelor's degree as a proxy for actually being able to do the job.
....many employers feel that screening based on an assessment of one’s skills rather than on whether she can boast a college diploma would be time-consuming, particularly if they don’t have resources like the trove of LinkedIn data.
....Programs such as Barriers to Entry help reduce the amount of time companies spend on their pivot to skills-based job screening, but they also cost money—companies need to pay the (often pricey) salaries of the specialists who help them find the right candidates. It’s an expense many companies can’t afford. But it may be the most cost-effective solution to an employer’s hiring woes.
IQ tests and presence of bachelor's degrees are relatively inexpensive proxies for being able to test whether a candidate for a job is likely to be able do the job.  Which is fine and understandable, until people turn the IQ tests and college degrees into self-fulfilling predictors.