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How should employers and workers adapt to the new demands in today’s technologically driven workforce? Two recent reports by HBS professor Joseph Fuller examine innovative paths to training and building talent pipelines.

The first report offers a road map to expanding apprenticeship programs in the United States. Fuller collaborated with labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies—led by CEO Matt Sigelman (MBA 1999)—to identify occupations best suited for the apprenticeship model. One criterion: The occupation must require narrow and clearly defined skills that can be obtained through specialized training, such as carpenters, electricians, and pharmacy technicians. In today’s tech-heavy work environments, however, apprenticeships should not be limited to these trade occupations, Fuller argues, noting that apprenticeships are emerging in high-tech and service- sector occupations, such as computer support specialists, insurance underwriters, and customer service representatives. Fuller also contends that American companies should consider learning from their European counterparts, which provide apprenticeships in entry-level white-collar jobs as well as skilled trades. “Many of these jobs are in high demand,” says Fuller, “which means that apprenticeships play a critical role in training workers for the jobs of the future and providing businesses with a ready-made talent pipeline.”

The second report explores the increase in academic degree inflation in hiring practices—which Fuller defines as employers’ tendency to raise the degree requirements for job applications. More than 60 percent of companies in the study’s survey admitted to using college degrees as a baseline for hiring, both to reduce application pools to a manageable size and as evidence of professional skills, says Fuller. The problem with this approach, he explains, is that “you are excluding traditionally disadvantaged populations, you are excluding minority populations, and you will often be excluding a 55-year-old with lots of relevant experience but no college degree.” There’s an enormous financial cost, too, with over 50 percent of the companies surveyed paying college graduates more than non-college graduates for the same job. The takeaway message: stop raising degree requirements for jobs that don’t absolutely require one. “You are playing in a more competitive market for those applicants. You are going to pay more, they will leave more often, and for many of these jobs, there’s no data [showing that] you actually get a performance difference,” says Fuller.

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1999, Section B

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