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  • Nearly 40% of employers (39%) in Scotland say it’s not important that a job applicant has a degree
  • Over 70% (71%) believe an employee’s willingness to learn is more important than their existing skillset
  • Employers in the private sector are more likely to say that having a degree is not important at 40%, compared to 27% of employers in public sector organisations

Is having a degree losing its importance in today’s workplace? According to new research from Hays, 39% of employers in Scotland say it is no longer important to them that a job applicant has a degree, and that a willingness to learn (71%) is more important.

A further 46% of organisations say a degree is quite important but not essential when hiring, whilst only 15% say having a degree is essential. A large percentage (79%) of employers would be likely to hire a professional who does not possess all the required skills, with the intention of upskilling them, rising from 73% who said the same last year across the UK.

The research is based on a survey of nearly 15,000 professionals and employers, including 886 respondents in Scotland. 

Keith Mason, director at Hays Scotland, comments:

“We’ve clearly seen an increase towards skills-based hiring in recent years. This marks a move away from traditional recruitment towards other routes to work, such as apprenticeships and academies where professionals can earn and learn at the same time.

“It’s encouraging to see employers are becoming more open-minded when it comes to hiring staff, especially in a skills-short market. Opening up routes to entry is so important for levelling the playing field for professionals, with many employers indicating that aptitude and willingness to learn are more important than existing skillsets.”

The research also shows there are some differences in skills hiring between the public and private sectors. Only 27% of public sector employers say that a degree is not important (compared with 40% in the private sector), with one in five saying they wouldn’t consider an applicant without one.

Overall, of the employers who deem a degree essential when hiring (15%), 64% said they would prefer a level 6 qualification (such as a bachelor’s degree, graduate diploma), whilst 34% said they would prefer a level 7 qualification such as a master’s degree.

“Of course, there are still professions where degrees are required or preferred,” continues Mason. “However, there are many more routes into the world of work. Employers who can support different options to access work, for example, focusing on skills and experience rather than qualifications, will be more likely to stand the test of time when it comes to having the talent they need.”

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