Are tertiary qualifications necessary? NZ Talent suggests not

The conversation around education in New Zealand is set to change as more than 100 companies have signed an open letter declaring tertiary qualifications are extraneous for a range of roles within their workplaces.

The open letter, published at nztalent.co.nz, puts a focus on assessing the skills, attitudes, motivation and adaptability of job applicants and those who have signed it are supporting the idea by not requiring tertiary qualifications for a range of skills-based roles in their companies.

The open letter is an initiative under the ASB/KPMG Strategic Insights Panel (SIP), a group of 30 senior business leaders from New Zealand companies who have set a goal to help double GDP per capita growth from 1.5 percent to three percent by 2021.

Co-leader of the initiative Frances Valintine says the letter recognises the growing demand from employers for skills that are often learned outside the traditional tertiary framework.

“Businesses across New Zealand are struggling to find talented employees that can bring enthusiasm, natural talent, passion and potential to their companies as qualifications do not always reflect the true capability of applicants,” Valintine says.

“Solving the talent crisis requires bold new ways to match people, capability and jobs and I believe removing the fixed requirement for a formal qualification is a great first step.”

Alongside the letter, Trade Me, a signatory, has launched a ‘no qualification’ search filter on its Trade Me Jobs site to highlight the skills-based roles being advertised with no requirement for a qualification.

As of this morning, searching for jobs in the marketing, media and communications category that required no qualifications delivered six listings—three of which belong to Trade Me. Remove the no qualification specification and 227 listings appear.

For an industry that demonstrates the rapid rate of changes to jobs, thanks in part to the digital movement, it has a long way to go if it wants to align itself with the NZ Talent’s way of thinking.

Not only would it be contributing to doubling the GDP per capita, it could also help the industry reduce its own issue of a talent shortage.

Earlier this year, recruitment agency The Pond’s talent director Leighton Howl told StopPress that in the past 10 years it’s seen 10 creative professions expand to 40 on its books.

From creative and art directors to UX designers/architects, technologists/tech leads, graphic directors, journalists to special designers, Howl called it “a bit of a fruit salad” in the industry and it’s the digital designers, digital producers, UI designers, back and front-end developers and graphic designers that are being scooped up quickly.

However, they also make up the smallest numbers of available talent and FutureYou Academy founder and director Michael Te Young believes the number of practitioners with the required digital skills has not kept up with demand and companies are struggling to keep up. The solution he told StopPress is for employers to help grow the talent pool.

“There’s a talent shortage and everyone is nicking everyone else’s people, so we have to concentrate on making talent rather than just sourcing it.”

But while some companies have programmes in place to do the training themselves, Te Young pointed out the reality is that digital staff have to conduct the training and that only intensifies pressure on their workloads.

“So the programme becomes inconsistent because at the end of the day doing the business is the highest priority. On top of that, utilising new starters is even more challenging because they don’t become effective until after being trained.”

Te Young’s solution is an e-learning course for tertiary graduates, designed to get them up to date with digital media competencies across a broad range of careers, including media publishers, sales networks, media agencies and marketers.  

It’s one new solution to future employment that EdCollective chief executive Luc Shorter says need to be considered. He believes traditional tertiary education will always have a place, but industries and the way people access knowledge has changed and is continuing to change at pace.

“As such, we need to validate additional pathways for getting people into skilled jobs,” Shorter says. “People learn a great deal from their work and life experience; we need to be more open to valuing that.”

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