The inherent problem is that statements of work still require arbitrary four-year degrees for certain roles. Many candidates who are pivoting careers are working hard to work while attending college classes, and some opt for certifications and experience route instead.

While some recruiters are frustrated with the problem of finding a perfectly qualified cleared candidate to do the work, only to be rejected by the government because they lack the academic requirements, others see a degree as a high commitment level from candidates.

Why aren’t employers trusting skills over degrees?

According to a survey by Morning Consult, data featured in a joint report by the nonprofits American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future, and showed that 52% of employers said they still hired candidates from degree programs. Are these candidates really a less precarious choice?

Skills-based hiring should be the way of the future, and the government needs to reassess how they recruit and retain the cleared workforce. There are solutions to the candidate scarcity problem, and if the government does not implement those tactics, there will be even greater hiring issues in the next decade. Even though some contracts have the ‘experience instead of degree’ loophole, t is time to reevaluate the hiring process and its parameters.

But I believe many recruiters on the ground are already there – skills-based hiring for non-billable or internal company roles is more common among HR teams. Talent deficiencies can hinder a defense contractor’s revenue, ultimately leaving a gap in project missions. We’ve publicized previously that employers are too picky for the ideal candidate, leaving those from diverse talent pools (and many that are qualified to do the work) left in the rejection pile.

The government could be there, but execution always has a long timetable within the government. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs both noted that the entire system needs a reboot, including skills based hiring to remove some of the hurdles that prevent an inclusive workforce. Executives from EEOC, OFCCP, SHRM and other companies discussed the issues applicants face not having a degree in seeking a new job.

So, long story short, why aren’t employers trusting skills over degrees? It’s a government contracting problem where statements of work are copied and pasted over the years, not changing with societal norms where a degree is seen not as important as hands on experience. Government is slow to change, but change is necessary to progress.



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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸