Four in five employers "don't care about degrees"

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Date: 10 August 2021

Three smiling female students open their exam results

A-level results day has seen record numbers of students getting top grades with plans to go to university, but new research reveals that four in five employers don't require a degree qualification for entry-level roles.

A study by Careermap has found that as many as 79% of employers don't require applicants to have a degree for entry-level roles. And over two-thirds of employers (67%) that have asked for a degree qualification on a job specification admit that they have gone on to hire someone without a degree.

Careermap surveyed more than 1,200 UK business owners and HR leaders and found that 41% have requested a degree qualification in a job specification before, but of these 68% said a degree was "desirable" rather than necessary. In fact, 79% of UK employers polled said that they "don't care" whether a prospective employee has a degree, whether they asked for it in the job description or not.

Asked what skills they look for in entry-level candidates - when they were able to choose more than one - the most popular answers were "enthusiasm" (78%), "transferrable skills" (71%) and "relevant work experience" (64%). When asked who they would rather employ for an entry-level role, between an apprentice and a graduate, 63% of respondents chose an apprentice, compared to 37% who selected a graduate.

Sharon Walpole, director of Careermap, said: "We wanted to carry out this research to show that there are multiple options available after school, sixth form or college, and that these results won't define your life. Many schools drill it into their students that university is the best option - but we're here to make students aware of all the options so they can [make] the most informed decision for their circumstances. We're not saying that university isn't a good option, it will be the right path for many, just as apprenticeships will be the right path for many also who would prefer to learn on the job."

These views were echoed today by the CBI. Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: "Regardless of the outcome [of A-level results], young people should remember that qualifications are just one of the factors employers look at when recruiting. Businesses value the resilience students have demonstrated throughout the pandemic enormously, alongside skills like creativity and teamwork … Firms are committed to helping young people get ready for the world of work - be it through Kickstart placements, apprenticeships or work experience."

Also this week, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has launched the One Million Chances campaign to boost youth employment as it emerges that 43% of young people say the pandemic has harmed their long-term career prospects. The CIPD campaign aims to get employers to create a million opportunities for young people (aged 16-30) - through jobs, internships, work experience, apprenticeships, T-Levels or the Kickstart scheme.

Lizzie Crowley, CIPD senior skills adviser, said: "More employers also need to take a chance on young people - and be prepared to train them up - given our labour supply is changing and staff shortages are becoming more prevalent. We also don't want them to miss out on the creativity, ingenuity and energy young people can bring to an organisation."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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