Colleges and universities are scared. They should be.  They are in the legacy information business in the information age.   Disruption is happening at a pace that is unprecedented historically.   Alternative education solutions are being adopted at an accelerated pace, some of which are good enough and even free.  The Bachelors, the traditional bastion of the professional worker is crumbling in importance.  Traditional educators are saying go up to a Masters or get a trade but even that may be a mistake. So the educators are looking around at the education landscape and evaluating it, one type of solution is the alternative credential.

In this interview for the the EvoLLLution, Michelle R. Weise discusses alternative credentials.  She starts right off by citing the fact that employers are still requiring degrees for jobs that don’t really need a degree.  Some are starting to ‘get it’, the idea that the degree doesn’t communicate what it did historically.  In her terms she says ‘too blunt a proxy for capabilities’ which is academic speak for: ‘nearly useless but still required’.

She does go into the overused analogy of ‘multiple on ramps and off ramps’ meaning the rapid pace of change is requiring continuing upskilling over the career/life of the employee.  She discusses the younger generations (X,Y,millennials) and their openness to self directed learning cornucopias that may or may not include a degree.  Interestingly enough, she doesn’t put as much emphasis as I would like on the biggest problem which is the cost of retraining when you are in the middle of life, although she does comment on it a few times.  Specifically she uses the language:  

‘need to build more accessible and affordable pathways for working adults to continually skill up for opportunities in emergent fields.’  

And later in the article she says:

For some older working adults, we are finding that so much of life gets in the way of their pursuit of educational goals that many just want to be told exactly what to take next’.

That last line sounds just like an overworked manager’s perspective to me, at least if you flip it to the employers perspective.  A hiring manager doesn’t want to go through all the permutations of credentials that may add up to a candidate who can excel at the new jobs, they just want a single credential and experience that they know would work.  Don’t forget, when you factor in loss of income and commensurate climbing back up the ladder due to a career change then this retraining to fit the new jobs can be a decade or more.  Is it any wonder there aren’t a lot of mid-career types willing to hit the big career reset button?

 If you can get away from the flowery Academic Administrator language, what you get is the fact that the educational establishment understands that employers want and need purple squirrels to meet the needs of the world changing economies but don’t know how to get them from an macro organizational perspective.  Alternatively the educational institutions don’t know how to deliver them either, at least from a macro organizational perspective.    To get to the purple squirrel people need lots of little credentials built up on a degree because every new job is highly unique vs. the armies of professionals we had in the past.  Both the corporate system and the education system are designed around delivering armies of professionals, not uncounted unique solutions.

Sadly there is no real conversation about the potential solutions other than ‘multiple on ramps and off ramps’.  That’s all well and good, but you still need enough gas to even get to the highway entrance, otherwise you’ll just keep pushing forward and hope you can get to your destination on fumes.

Inspiration and Source:

Posted by Mike Peluso

Mike Peluso writes about the collision between between the business / professional world and life. He also writes about the journey involved with the Peluso Presents efforts including the Blog, Books, and Podcast so that others may benefit from his efforts. From Mike: I spend hundreds of hours working on these articles every year with no compensation other than support I get through donations. You can support with a tip and by Subscribing to the Podcast (and writing a review on iTunes would be really appreciated as well!) One time tips:


  1. I believe the academic world has lost a quality in their teachings. There seems to be a lost of bring back the passion of the profession/job into play with all the book learning demands. Everyone seems to be focused on passing a test and move to the next level with out a passion to the subject of the demands. Without passion of the profession/job there tends to be a void of success both to companies and the employee. To keep gas in the drive of success one might start with knowing what is truly the passion of what they want for a long term occupation and not just focusing on the money the job will bring. Money is not the answer to success, but the byproduct of the passion’s efforts.

    Mike Emmons



  2. Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. Interestingly enough the president of the college recently had some comments about compensation needs he shared with the whole college at our annual meeting that mirrored your statements, but he pushed for everyone at the school with political engagement to modify the situation. I’ve also got some other news I’ll share with you offline. Hope your weekend is going well.



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