The Value of the Qualification

Didn’t get that job you thought you had in the bag?

The problem is getting worse; qualified workers are getting the jobs over the experienced ones.

I have recruited many staff as a manager and project manager as whilst I personally went down the university pathway prior to gaining my practical experience I have always places experience over qualifications.

My rationale, and I’m sure many can relate to this; the skills gained through the attainment of my qualifications were very loosely related to the skills required to succeed in my profession.  After receiving my qualification, I honestly wasn’t equipped with what I needed to provide value to my employer.  Not something that was shared at any point during our degrees. I however learnt quickly on the job.

I am not discounting the academic qualification pathway; I have lectured at university completed 2 Degrees, a Masters and partway through a PhD whilst completing another Masters.  I am however stating that to a large degree my qualifications have not really improved my work practices.  They have improved my employment prospects and for some strange reason I find learning exciting so it has not been a waste, but from a work outcomes perspective not so much.

if you get good grades you go to uni, if you don’t you go to TAFE

The suitable alternative only really became apparent to me when working for a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).  I had long been informed that TAFE- or RTO’s were places for kids who didn’t do well at school; “if you get good grades you go to uni, if you don’t you go to TAFE”.  Unfortunately, this song is still being sung at many schools around the country.

The difference between RTO’s is that the qualifications are designed around employers; so the industry is consulted as to what skills they want their staff and potential employees to have. Through a long and most likely convoluted process this then spits out a qualification. So these qualifications, you probably know them as Certificates and Diplomas are actually based on the skills your employers (and the industry) thinks are important; not some academic who may have never set foot in the real world.

The issue is finding a training organisation who can equip you with these skills.  Whilst assessments are regulated in this sector you will find that the actual training is not.  So there is a massive difference in the skills you might get from company X,Y and Z.  What I do is ask the experience of the proposed trainer, that’s really where I’m going to get value.

Hang on isn’t all of this so far talking about qualifications?

Yes, it is and I’m glad you asked.  So whilst the Certificates and Diplomas issued from Registered Training Organisations are based upon the skills industry is seeking, they still aren’t as good a tool for predicting and measuring a person’s ability to do a task than a person’s prior experience.

Let me ask you a question:  You have a small business and you are looking to hire a new manager.  You have 3 candidates to select from:

Sue: Recent university graduate with outstanding grades in Management

Kevin: Recently completed his Diploma of Management

Jim: No qualifications, but 30 years of proven success in leading teams to success


Which would you feel is the most capable of doing the task?

I’m guessing that the majority picked Jim.  If you didn’t that’s fine, and also it’s where the problem lies.  When recruiters are choosing who to employ they consider a number of factors designed to minimise risk and hopefully get the most out of what they will be remunerating.

The risk minimisation phycology.  Believe it or not we are all hardwired with a default setting to prevent loss.  As a result, we have a tendency to be risk adverse, in effect we will look for the safe bet.  In the previous example Jim was the safe bet; for the company.

What about the safe bet for the people on the evaluation panel?  Well for a lot of recruiters there is a safety around the promotion of candidates with qualifications.   It actually sounds convincing too; “I think the best candidates are Sue and Kevin as they are both qualified managers”.  So if something goes wrong it’s safer to say I hired a qualified person over an unqualified one.

Why are you hired unqualified people?

Now Jim starts looking like the risky bet; “why isn’t he qualified”?  “Can we take the chance and hire an unqualified manager”?  “What happens if there is an issue and our clients find out that the manager wasn’t even a qualified manager”?  Slowly diminishing Jim’s chances.

So where does this leave Jim, well without the job in this case. It is unfair- you bet, is it the best decision for the company- probably not, does it happen every day- YES.

In today’s competitive environment you really need to play the game, or have an excellent selling proposition.  Fortunately, there is a good solution, if you are Jim, you have the experience but are not “qualified” you can use your years of experience to get the qualification. The Recognition of Prior Learning pathway is painless, but it’s not going to make you any better at doing your job- just more employable.

Want to find out more?

What is Recognition of Prior Learning

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