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The CEOs of Home Depot and Walmart U.S. penned a joint column in The Wall Street Journal urging employers to stop valuing college degrees and start valuing skills when hiring. 

In the op-ed published Tuesday and titled “Not Everyone Needs a College Degree,” Home Depot’s Ted Decker and Walmart U.S. branch’s John Furner detail how they “are helping build a skills-based economy.”

“A skills-based approach to employment is critical in a country where 62% of adults don’t have a college degree,” the men wrote.  

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With student loan debt ballooning to nearly $1.8 trillion, the men reject the idea instilled in many Americans that achieving the American dream must include obtaining a college degree. 

“The American dream isn’t dead, but the path to reach it might look different for job seekers today than it did for their parents,” Decker and Furner wrote. “While a college degree is a worthwhile path to prosperity, it isn’t the only one.”

In the op-ed, they point out that skilled trades such as plumbing, carpentry and electrical work are reliable ways to make a good living, but are not pursued enough because so many people believe success requires a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college.

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The men lead two of the largest private-sector employers in the U.S., representing a combined 2 million jobs. They noted that 90% of Home Depot store leaders started out as hourly employees, as did 75% of Walmart store managers. These store leaders often manage up to hundreds of people and earn six-figures. Most importantly, the positions do not require a college degree. 

Decker and Furner said employers should not only focus on skill-based hiring but also on fostering skill sets among their employees. 

The Walmart logo

Home Depot and Walmart both offer various training programs for their employees which help create sustainable career paths for workers.

“We need more employers to join us in building a system where workers can easily transfer skills from one company or industry to another,” the execs wrote in the op-ed. “We owe it to younger generations to open our minds to the different opportunities workers have to learn new skills and achieve their dreams.”

The two CEOs are hosting a workforce summit in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, during which they’ll talk to business leaders, government officials and workforce experts about the different skills for different careers, how to assess workers’ abilities and how to teach skills on the job.

Read the full article here

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