Your Shout: End the qualifications paper chase

Colin Beveridge's recent Thought for the Day: Caught out by Catch 2:1 generated an enormous e-mail response from

Colin Beveridge's recent Thought for the Day: Caught out by Catch 2:1 generated an enormous e-mail response from readers who agreed that employers' demands for ever more academic qualifications are counter-productive.

Read Colin Beveridge's piece>>

Below are some of the views sent in by readers.

My suspicion is that the goalposts are shifting faster than the changes in technology, and for no reason other than the availability of academic qualifications in subjects that were not even being taught when the present generation of recruiters started their jobs! It looks like just an excuse to cut down the number of people eligible for interview and so save management time selecting candidates.

Pat Mason

It appears that a 2:1 is merely an entry level requirement to become an apprentice. Work your way up my boy/girl!
I believe most employers and recruitment agencies have simply introduced a convenient and time-saving "sifting process" to reduce selection, recruitment and interview costs. 
This type of paper sift process reduces the opportunity for employers to find people who are more suited to the job in question - people with personality, ability, imagination and talent.

David Ross

Too many degrees within a project team are the cause of eight out of 10 projects failing. IT is not difficult: the knowledge and techniques are readily available with a reasonable level of intelligence and some work.

An innovative attitude, leadership, the ability to work as part of a team, and sheer bloodymindedness in finding a critical solution are important. Going to university where the formation of character is not on the agenda gives you none of these skills.

Requiring degrees for IT work is an ageism policy. We now have 40% of school leavers taking further education and, therefore, degrees, not the 10% when I was younger. Companies are missing out on the stable and more conscientious older workers by insisting on all department members having degrees.

Terry Carlin

While running a hardware/software helpdesk at one of my previous employers, we employed a lot of contract workers to deal with customer enquiries. One of the stipulations was a degree in a computing subject. Out of the 20 people recruited, around three were worth their wages.

It seems that in this day and age, qualifications are worth more than experience and it seems sad that with the vast amount of knowledge gained by people out there "in the field", more firms aren't taking people on based on their real-life experience rather than a piece of paper saying they've passed a course.

Dominic Stratten

Surely this problem is down to HRM (Hit & Run Management) departments wanting an easy time.

Asking for a 2.1 quickly filters down a large pile of applicants to a much smaller pile and makes their job so much easier. Whether people with a 3rd or just some A levels could be trained to do the job is a secondary consideration.

Morgan Rees

The majority of vacancies are advertised through agencies. Thousands of people spend an awful lot of time and money in obtaining qualifications. How much knowledge has the "recruitment professional" of the buzzword skills that he is asking for, or is he merely ticking boxes? Monkeys can be trained to do that!

One gets the feeling that there is a large element of "He's only ever painted red, green and blue doors; we don't think he could handle a yellow one."

Peter Hindley

There is sometimes a resistance towards fresh talent as a perceived threat to the person in a position to offer a job. The people with the power to make a job offer are sometimes looking not for skills to fit the need but for people that they can rely on to pull the legacy line.

Most managers do not have the time to 'update' their skills and as new people come along they feel somewhat left behind and the insecurity steps in to cloud their judgment. They do not want a new person to come along and show up the weaknesses and cracks in their system or even to make any improvements that would reflect a deficiency of some sort in the established IT staff.

Khushal Kiran

I have paid good money for courses to prove my enthusiasm and worth, in an attempt to secure an enjoyable and rewarding position in IT. It is daunting to be faced with the increasing entry-level requirements but refreshing that this may start to be publicly recognised.

Grant Hammond

This is a major issue which the IT industry has seemingly chosen to ignore. In an industry where there is a wealth of money and investment and very high salaries, I've been reading for years that there is a huge shortage of IT staff. Of course, companies want the best - but everyone's got to start somewhere. We weren't all born with Cisco routers under our arms and genius-level CCIE certs.

Companies could run mentoring and shadowing schemes, and even pay people a decent wage - not 30K, but maybe 20K-plus - to live on while they are learning if they sign binding contracts to stay for the duration. Companies could go into or establish links with training companies and recruit directly from them - even if it is a short three-month work experience (paid - not loads, but don't be stingy - people need to live!)

This can be done, so is anyone listening who's in a position to implement this?
How many 2:1s with the right qualifications are out there anyway? After they are all snapped up each year, how many IT jobs are there still left to fill?

Kenneth Lim

There is far too much emphasis placed on paper qualifications.

I graduated in 1996 with a 2:2 honours degree in Chemical Engineering, and went from there to spend five years working long hours as a technical consultant with Unisys - most of this time was spent on customer sites.

When I was "downsized" last year, I was routinely passed over - even for an interview - for most jobs I applied for, because I didn't have an MSCE qualification. My five years' experience appeared to count for nothing, as people seemed to be happy to take on staff with an MSCE and little or no practical experience.

As it turns out, my current employers put me through a TechCheck exam, where I scored in the 87th percentile worldwide for my main area of knowledge, which is Windows NT, which I think further goes to prove the futility of the certification paper chase for both employers and employees alike.

Graham Simpson

I totally agree with your article but feel that the problem is a lot worse than you say. Some employers are an arrogant lot (especially in the IT world) and fail to equate experience and results with "qualifications". An example: my sister is a project manager with a major consultancy but works on internal projects. She gets results and is the ideal character for the role.

However, when I mention that she should transfer to the PM practice she says it's impossible as they only take people with degrees.

When will companies learn to look at the person and their potential?

Paul Nicol

The problems are not just with traditional qualifications, but also with vendor-specific accreditations. One can find oneself on the Cisco, Microsoft or whatever treadmill of gaining new certifications for this and that new technology, then the need to recertify to stay current. The individual who wants to have a life in addition to a demanding career ends up doing work and studying. For what? Reduced job security, lowering salaries and benefits and possibly burnout.

A lot of these vendor certifications do not necessarily mean you will be any better at the job. In any case, the knowledge needed to pass the exams is a catch-all and one may only need a fraction of the skills covered in the real world. Yet one is putting oneself on a never-ending treadmill of studying for often needless and superfluous IT qualifications that can never replace experience or good old plain training in necessary skills.

I say get a life, keep your wife and dump the hamster for a dog!

Gary Marsh

I have been on both sides of the fence. When interviewing potential staff, as important as the skills are: do they "fit" into the organisation, culture, outlook, etc? On the other side of the fence, when looking for a role one of the questions I ask is how dogmatic is the company regarding the 2:1, (which I do not have)?

It appears not to be the barrier that it is seen as - it would appear a large proportion of companies merely use it as a means of sifting out those who, perhaps, do not have the character to press on anyway.

John Robertson-McIsaac

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