Regular Education vs Self-Learning: Friends or Foes?

Bioinformatics and ROS for Robot Arm Specialization Courses
| Phi Science
Yazan Alnajjar
Yazan Alnajjar
April 4, 2022

A friend of mine, let us call him Emad, graduated as a Mechanical Engineer. Shortly after graduation, he decided that he has no interest in his field of study and instead, began a self-learning journey.

He worked as a waiter to ensure a level of income until he finishes his skill-based self-learning studies and secure a job.

He studied PHP, C++, HTML, Python, amongst other things. After 8 months, he applied for and was hired as a Software Engineer at one of the major companies in the region.

I was always impressed by Emad’s story. But here is the thing, he’s not a rare example because employers are beginning to shift their thinking towards skills rather than impressive working history. Asan article in Forbes puts it “companies are beginning to hire for the needs of the future not of the past”.

The former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, explained in an interview how Google no longer includes GPA or tests scores as screening prerequisites, because, according toBock, “academic environments are artificial environments” and people there are trained to provide specific answers. But the real world is more challenging and requires out-of-the-box thinking.

On the ‘interview’ front, Google has conducted a study on thousands of in-house interviews to determine individuals that are great at hiring for talent.

This was done by drawing a comparison between the interviewers’ scores of candidates and how these candidates performed in their job. Shockingly, there was a “ZERO relationship”!

This has changed the hiring mindset at Google to focus on ‘behavioral interviews’ where “there's a consistent set of questions that ask people what they did in specific situations”.

The New Collar

The focus on skills-based-hiring, or what is now known as the ‘new collar,’ has even been adopted by the U.S government through an executive order aimed at relaxing the minimum education requirements when hiring for federal jobs. Even companies like IBM have followed the skill-based hype by hiring people who do not have a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the former CEO of IBM,Ginni Rometty, is the one that coined the term “new collar”.

In addition to Google and IBM, we have giants like Apple, EY, Starbucks, Home Depot, Bank of America, and Hilton that are also adopting the no-degree philosophy for their jobs. So, it is not surprising when job-search websites like ZipRecruiter report an increase in job applications that do not require a college degree.

long sleeve checkered shirt wooden hanger hang clothing rack white background
Regular Education vs Self Education: Friends or Foes? The New Collar

There is a growing skepticism on utilizing university and college degrees as a hiring barrier that excludes those who do not have them. There are several reasons for this transformation. Firstly, the traditional hiring process that shortlists candidates based on a checklist, which includes the university/college degree as one of the criteria, has proven to be time intensive. According to HRForecast , it takes 70 days on average to complete the hiring process in Germany. One of the contributing factors for this, is that companies “review skills at the latter stages of screening interviews. Thus, they miss the vast pool of candidates, focusing on college degrees and years of experience instead of actual competencies”.

The Consequences of Focusing on Teaching Content, Not Skills

Another contributing factor is the gap between a skill-reliant working place and the learning process. In an articulate titled “The Failure of American Higher Education” , Atkinson, the author, and president of ITIF, a U.S.-based think tank, shares the agony of the hiring fresh graduates, to the point that most candidates were not able to perform simple tasks like completing an excel sheet, even when these candidates were from top-ranked universities like Princeton and Boston.

Atkinson’s reasoning for this failure is that universities/colleges focus on teaching content, not skills. In addition, teachers themselves are not interested in teaching skills: “they do not want to teach logic, debate, writing, research, or any of other myriad skills. They want to teach the subject of their passion”.

Moreover, the last two decades have been witnessing a demand surge for online education, due to its flexibility and being direct to the point. It is rarely the case that you see a 4-year MOOCs program. The business environment has also shown a similar interest in utilizing online learning.

Further Readings: The Future of Education: Has Online Education Replaced Regular Education?


According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report , “talent developers depend more on online learning solutions than ever before”, and this proves to be very practical knowing that 68% of employees prefer to learn at work, with 58% preferring to do so at their own schedule.

Those numbers not only demonstrate the advantages of the alternative solution to formal education, i.e., MOOCs, but also the frustration and impracticality of formal education.

Low turnover rates might be another reason that encourages companies to bypass disqualification based on college degrees. Research by LinkedIn shows that employees without college degrees tend to stay longer compared to their colleagues that have college degrees.

In addition to higher retention rates, there is the element of shared skills that can be identified across distinct functions which, if properly utilized, will ease the welcoming of candidates based on their acquired set of skills.

LinkedIn, in conjunction with Microsoft, has launched the Career Explorer tool that helps people transition to new roles based on their skills. One example is the 71% skill similarity that was found between food servers and customer service.

This does not deter the fact that universities and college degrees are still important, especially for certain roles. However, unlike before, the self-learning process and informal education that equip us with different skills are starting to get the attention it deserves. Just because we do not have the money or time to attend a university will no longer be an excuse.

We have more options every day and it is up to us to recompensate the disadvantages and missed opportunities to rebuild our career paths.

Yazan Alnajjar

Business consultant, MBA student University of Liverpool.

Regular Education vs Self-Learning: Friends or Foes?

My story with Phi
Bioinformatics and ROS for Robot Arm Specialization Courses
| Phi Science
Yazan Alnajjar
April 4, 2022

A friend of mine, let us call him Emad, graduated as a Mechanical Engineer. Shortly after graduation, he decided that he has no interest in his field of study and instead, began a self-learning journey.

He worked as a waiter to ensure a level of income until he finishes his skill-based self-learning studies and secure a job.

He studied PHP, C++, HTML, Python, amongst other things. After 8 months, he applied for and was hired as a Software Engineer at one of the major companies in the region.

I was always impressed by Emad’s story. But here is the thing, he’s not a rare example because employers are beginning to shift their thinking towards skills rather than impressive working history. Asan article in Forbes puts it “companies are beginning to hire for the needs of the future not of the past”.

The former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, explained in an interview how Google no longer includes GPA or tests scores as screening prerequisites, because, according toBock, “academic environments are artificial environments” and people there are trained to provide specific answers. But the real world is more challenging and requires out-of-the-box thinking.

On the ‘interview’ front, Google has conducted a study on thousands of in-house interviews to determine individuals that are great at hiring for talent.

This was done by drawing a comparison between the interviewers’ scores of candidates and how these candidates performed in their job. Shockingly, there was a “ZERO relationship”!

This has changed the hiring mindset at Google to focus on ‘behavioral interviews’ where “there's a consistent set of questions that ask people what they did in specific situations”.

The New Collar

The focus on skills-based-hiring, or what is now known as the ‘new collar,’ has even been adopted by the U.S government through an executive order aimed at relaxing the minimum education requirements when hiring for federal jobs. Even companies like IBM have followed the skill-based hype by hiring people who do not have a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the former CEO of IBM,Ginni Rometty, is the one that coined the term “new collar”.

In addition to Google and IBM, we have giants like Apple, EY, Starbucks, Home Depot, Bank of America, and Hilton that are also adopting the no-degree philosophy for their jobs. So, it is not surprising when job-search websites like ZipRecruiter report an increase in job applications that do not require a college degree.

long sleeve checkered shirt wooden hanger hang clothing rack white background
Regular Education vs Self Education: Friends or Foes? The New Collar

There is a growing skepticism on utilizing university and college degrees as a hiring barrier that excludes those who do not have them. There are several reasons for this transformation. Firstly, the traditional hiring process that shortlists candidates based on a checklist, which includes the university/college degree as one of the criteria, has proven to be time intensive. According to HRForecast , it takes 70 days on average to complete the hiring process in Germany. One of the contributing factors for this, is that companies “review skills at the latter stages of screening interviews. Thus, they miss the vast pool of candidates, focusing on college degrees and years of experience instead of actual competencies”.

The Consequences of Focusing on Teaching Content, Not Skills

Another contributing factor is the gap between a skill-reliant working place and the learning process. In an articulate titled “The Failure of American Higher Education” , Atkinson, the author, and president of ITIF, a U.S.-based think tank, shares the agony of the hiring fresh graduates, to the point that most candidates were not able to perform simple tasks like completing an excel sheet, even when these candidates were from top-ranked universities like Princeton and Boston.

Atkinson’s reasoning for this failure is that universities/colleges focus on teaching content, not skills. In addition, teachers themselves are not interested in teaching skills: “they do not want to teach logic, debate, writing, research, or any of other myriad skills. They want to teach the subject of their passion”.

Moreover, the last two decades have been witnessing a demand surge for online education, due to its flexibility and being direct to the point. It is rarely the case that you see a 4-year MOOCs program. The business environment has also shown a similar interest in utilizing online learning.

Further Readings: The Future of Education: Has Online Education Replaced Regular Education?


According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report , “talent developers depend more on online learning solutions than ever before”, and this proves to be very practical knowing that 68% of employees prefer to learn at work, with 58% preferring to do so at their own schedule.

Those numbers not only demonstrate the advantages of the alternative solution to formal education, i.e., MOOCs, but also the frustration and impracticality of formal education.

Low turnover rates might be another reason that encourages companies to bypass disqualification based on college degrees. Research by LinkedIn shows that employees without college degrees tend to stay longer compared to their colleagues that have college degrees.

In addition to higher retention rates, there is the element of shared skills that can be identified across distinct functions which, if properly utilized, will ease the welcoming of candidates based on their acquired set of skills.

LinkedIn, in conjunction with Microsoft, has launched the Career Explorer tool that helps people transition to new roles based on their skills. One example is the 71% skill similarity that was found between food servers and customer service.

This does not deter the fact that universities and college degrees are still important, especially for certain roles. However, unlike before, the self-learning process and informal education that equip us with different skills are starting to get the attention it deserves. Just because we do not have the money or time to attend a university will no longer be an excuse.

We have more options every day and it is up to us to recompensate the disadvantages and missed opportunities to rebuild our career paths.

Bana-img

Yazan Alnajjar

Business consultant, MBA student University of Liverpool.