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No College, No Problem: Silicon Valley’s Student Loan Solution

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In the emerging new American world, you might not have to bury yourself in student loan debt in order to get a job: Even Silicon Valley tech giants like Google, Apple and IBM are playing by a new set of employment rules that looks beyond the exorbitantly expensive piece of paper on which a diploma is printed.

A college degree has long been a mainstay of any kind of employment that can net you a job that does something more than simply make ends meet. Socially, it’s been a clear dividing line between the haves and have-nots.

Sometimes employers will require that you have a college degree even if it that degree is entirely irrelevant to the job at hand. The rationale has been that a college education provides you with a broad learning background and shows a certain sort of ambition and, hopefully, intelligence that can be put to practical use with enough training.

But it’s a very expensive rationale when you consider that new research estimates that by 2023, some 40 percent of student loan borrowers will default.

And waiting in the wings for new employees is a line-up of companies that have crossed off college degrees from their list of requirements. It’s a line-up that extends into Silicon Valley even.

Take Google, for instance, whose former SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, feels that strict college degree requirements could lead to employers overlooking some of the best minds out there. Related: Is Fear Of Missing Out Fueling Market Growth?

“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people,” the New York Times quoted Bock as saying.

Speaking to SafeHaven.com, the executive director of a U.S.-based boutique intelligence and due diligence firm with global operations said college degrees aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be and recruitment efforts don’t work well when it comes down to just ticking off a bunch of boxes.

“We want people who can think outside the box, think on their feet, and not be chained intellectually by linear thinking,” the executive director said. “Just because someone has earned a degree and managed to make it through to the end, doesn’t mean they can think out of the box. In fact, it often means they can’t. That is especially true in America, where job applicants tend to lack broad experiences, geographically and culturally.”

As Bock suggested, employers are likely missing out on some great minds out there that have demonstrated an art of resourcefulness that defies the status quo.

Google, of course, is not alone. Glassdoor recently added 15 more companies to its list of employers willing to forego the college degree requirement for job applicants.

They include:

• Google
• Apple
• IBM
• Hilton
• Costco Wholesale
• Whole Foods
• Lowe’s
• Penguin Random House
• Publix
• Starbucks
• Nordstrom
• Home Depot
• Bank of America
• Chipotle
• EY (UK)

Most notably, Penguin has job openings for marketing designer, senior editor and senior manager of finance, among things—and doesn’t have a college degree requirement, according to Glassdoor. Google offers everything from product manager and software engineer to research scientist and Administrative Business Partner—all open to people who can prove themselves beyond a college degree.

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“Google and Hilton are just two of the champion companies who realize that book smarts don’t necessarily equal strong work ethic, grit and talent,” writes Glassdoor.  

Speaking to CNBC last year, IBM’s vice-president of talent Joanna Daley said that some 15 percent of the tech giant’s new recruits in the U.S. didn’t have four-year college degrees. Why? Because IBM recruiters were looking first and foremost for people with hands-on experience. So, while college degrees weren’t frowned upon, the most fastest ticket to an IBM job was a stint at a coding boot camp or vocational classes that are specifically related to the industry.

Indeed, if you want to make it in today’s world, doors are opening up to those who can find alternative paths and avoid going into heavy student loan debt. It’s a job seekers’ market, and while recruitment is still overwhelmingly ticking off banal boxes, a revolution in human resources is making itself felt across industries.

By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com

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