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Recredentialing Based on Skills

Medtronic partners with InStride to break down the skills needed for job roles.

Medtronic partners with InStride to “recredential” around skills as it replaces degree requirements, including for half of the company’s IT roles. Also, how employers are trying to measure progress on skills-first systems, and the new kind of relationship needed between community colleges and employers.

Making Skills-First a Reality

Employers have long relied on the college degree as a proxy for skills. So for companies to make good on promises to drop four-year degree requirements for certain jobs, they may need a better sense of which skills are necessary in those roles.

Medtronic is a medical device company that employs roughly 95K workers. It’s experimenting broadly with skills-based hiring, beginning with a pilot two years ago to replace requirements for bachelor’s degrees with skills across more than a quarter of its IT job roles.

That project has expanded, and now half of Medtronic’s IT workers are in roles that don’t require a degree, says Amy Wilson, the company’s director of global talent acquisition programs and employment brand. She says the goal is diversification and removing barriers for both jobseekers and employees.

“Sometimes a degree isn’t the best indicator,” Wilson says. “If we can create more pathways, we can really bring our mission to more people.”

The company has tapped InStride to help with the skills side of this work. InStride, a player in the education-benefits space, describes the partnership with Medtronic and similar ones with other companies as a customized “recredentialing” of job roles.

“They are looking for guidance and support to reimagine their hiring practices, in part by redefining job requirements, and identifying the skills that truly matter for specific positions,” says Nisha Smales, vice president of workforce solutions and corporate strategy for InStride. “By focusing on candidates’ relevant skills, they can attract a broader pool of talent and ensure a more inclusive hiring process.”

Employers InStride has worked with so far on recredentialing have typically sought to map out the skills for an entire job family, from entry-level to senior roles. For new hires, companies can design a skills-focused recruiting and selection process, Smales says, from job descriptions and sourcing to interview questions.

“In many cases, this means employers would interview candidates who would otherwise be rejected during the résumé scan process,” she says.

This approach also can help open doors for frontline workers who are interested in promotions to midlevel roles where degrees may not be necessary.

Medtronic has recredentialed 65 roles across 17 job families. “We’re still early on, with some significant progress,” Wilson says of the company’s work to replace four-year degree requirements for certain roles with skills.

InStride also administers Medtronic’s education benefits program, which covers tuition fees up front. Smales says the deep collaboration with employers means InStride can co-design custom career education paths for workers, including sponsored degrees, certificates, certifications, and short skills courses.

“This combination of recredentialing entry-level roles and then providing career-aligned learning on the job means that workers without a degree can access the education they need to advance within a company,” says Smales.

Good for Business?

The moves by companies and states to drop degree requirements have drawn a remarkable amount of attention. But as time passes, pressure is building to show results and to prove that those pronouncements weren’t just PR.

Medtronic’s skills-based push is related to its participation in the Business Roundtable’s Multiple Pathways Initiative, a multiyear effort by roughly 80 companies to emphasize the value of skills, rather than just degrees.

Wilson says the benefits of working with a third party like InStride include industry analyses and benchmarking. Cybersecurity is one of the first fields where this has proven helpful, including by helping to determine which short-term credentials can work best for employees.

Grads of Life is a consulting group that advises employers on skills-based talent practices and is a participant in related OneTen and Business Roundtable projects. “It’s a major internal transformation” for employers, says Elyse Rosenblum, managing director and co-founder of Grads of Life. “Companies are trying to figure out how to do it.”

Skills mapping is a fundamental piece of this work, she says, and lots of organizations are trying to help companies do it.

One common challenge employers face as they try to remove degrees as a barrier to opportunity, says Rosenblum, is measuring the impact of switching to a skill-first talent management system. For example, Medtronic says its employees may not want to disclose if they do or don't have a four-year degree, and the company doesn’t require this information. As a result, Wilson says it’s difficult to measure exactly how many employees without a bachelor’s degree hold positions that don’t require one.

The Business Roundtable project features a working group of 11 large companies, including Medtronic, that has focused on how to measure progress on skills-based practices. The group produced a blueprint for tracking adoption and the impact on employees.

Rosenblum says measurement is the crucial next frontier of this work, particularly in helping to get a better understanding of the impact on the bottom line.

The Kicker: “For any of this to get to scale, companies have to understand, is it good for business?” says Rosenblum.

Open Tabs

Credential Creep
The percentage of workers with bachelor’s degrees has continued to rise even in the lowest-paying jobs, despite employer moves to lower degree requirements, according to a new analysis by Preston Cooper at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. Among workers earning less than $20K a year in today’s dollars, almost 25% held a bachelor’s degree in 2021, compared to only 14% in 1980. Middle-income roles have seen even bigger jumps for degree holders. The overall effect, Cooper argues, hasn’t been a broad increase in earnings, but rather degree inflation that has “simply caused the education levels of lower-income brackets to rise.”

State Grants
Women comprise 80% of recipients of Missouri’s Fast Track Incentive Grant program, an education grant for high-demand fields, Michael Parson, Missouri’s Republican governor, said during a recent Reagan Foundation event. Parson also described a new $30M workforce training grant in Missouri. “You have to partner with employers. You have to go out there and find what is their need, what do they expect out of their workers, and how do you train them?”

Jobs Apocalypse
While white-collar job roles are thought to be especially vulnerable to generative AI, little evidence exists of an AI hit to employment in the U.S, according to an analysis by The Economist. It’s early days, of course. And the impact on jobs could merely be delayed as few firms yet use generative-AI tools at scale. It remains unclear what will happen next. The magazine will publish updates to this analysis every few months.

Skills First
Ericsson is centering its worker evaluations around skills and how they are applied to create value, while also matching skills to job roles, writes Sena Erten, vice president and head of people for the Middle East and Africa at the Swedish networking and telecommunications company. “We see our people as the CEOs of their own careers, and we view their upskilling and reskilling in critical areas as a strategic business investment.”

Engagement Crisis
A recent Gallup survey sheds light on disengagement among middle and high school students and its potential impact on their learning and future careers. More than half (52%) of students give their school a C or lower for making them excited to learn, and 49% give their school similarly low marks for teaching them about potential careers, according to the latest Gallup and Walton Family Foundation State of American Youth Survey.

Career Readiness
New York City announced $19M in new funding for FutureReadyNYC, a career-readiness program that offers students paid work-based learning and career discovery for tech jobs. The investment will be used to expand the initiative to a total of 100 NYC high schools. Google also will contribute $4M to FutureReadyNYC, reports AMNY, with half of that funding going to the City University of New York’s Tech Equity Initiative.

Job Moves
Lauren Starks, who led the Good Jobs Challenge at the U.S. Department of Commerce, has moved to the Aspen Institute, where she will direct the organization’s Good Companies/Good Jobs initiative.

During the last week I’ve heard fascinating discussions about what AI will mean for education and the workforce. Let me know what I should be covering on this fast-moving topic? Please subscribe here if this newsletter was forward to you. And consider supporting our work to reach 5K influential readers who care about the intersection of education and the workforce.