More Skills, Fewer Degrees for Gov. Jobs

David Acevedo

Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.

CounterCurrent: Week of 7/5

The last month has come with a flurry of executive orders from President Trump. Recent directives include those issued to help protect American monuments and statues from rioters, jumpstart the economy amid the continuing pandemic, and reform policing practices in response to widespread civil unrest. Regardless of one’s stance on Trump’s frequent use of executive power, it’s here to stay.

One order, issued on June 26, has not received the airtime other orders directly pertaining to the blisteringly fast news cycles in which we find ourselves. Titled “Executive Order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates,” the directive moves to prioritize job skills over college degree credentials in federal hiring, thus “modernizing” government hiring practices through methods that have been used by the private sector for years

Trump correctly recognizes that “Unnecessary degree requirements exclude otherwise qualified Americans from Federal employment, impose the expense of college on prospective workers, and disproportionately harm low-income Americans.” The new order will require federal agencies “to focus hiring on the skills job seekers possess, rather than focusing on whether they earned a college degree” and “to revise and update outdated Federal job qualification standards and candidate assessments, improving the quality and competency of the civil service.” The order also works to expand apprenticeship programs and allocates greater funding for vocational education programs. 

The National Association of Scholars commends President Trump's directive, as it will help Americans get back to work and secure a government job without requiring otherwise-qualified applicants to have a college degree in order to do so.

As many say, “college is the new high school,” an aphorism with a kernel of truth—degrees have grown increasingly ubiquitous and therefore decrease in job market value year on year. Meanwhile, the quality of classroom instruction continues to nosedive, producing students trained primarily for progressive activism and ill-equipped for such basic workplace tasks as cohesive writing, critical thinking, and substantive conversation. A liberal arts education is no longer liberating, and the positive correlation between a college degree and tangible job skills has never been lower.

If colleges and universities continue to abdicate their responsibility to truly educate students by enriching culture, pursuing truth, shaping character, and preparing them for a practical vocation, then they deserve to lose students who can find job training elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.

In this week’s featured article, Preston Cooper of Forbes further details President Trump’s order and breaks down the motivating problem of “credential inflation.” He writes

Credential inflation shuts out experienced, qualified job candidates who are perfectly capable of filling certain roles simply because they lack the right piece of paper. It also deprives employers of a pool of talent. Most perniciously, it convinces young jobseekers that they need a bachelor’s degree or even a graduate degree to succeed in the labor market, forcing them to spend tens of thousands of dollars and years of their lives pursuing unnecessary credentials.

Yes, public health professionals will still need to receive university training; attorneys will still need to go to law school; doctors will still need to attend medical school. But for the many government jobs that do not require such specialized knowledge or skills, “the order will create more job pathways for the two-thirds of Americans who do not have college degrees,” but who do have marketable job skills. This bodes well for the future job market and the many qualified citizens who will benefit from these hiring reforms.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’  weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Louise Hoffman, Public Domain

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