The Times reports that Ernst and Young will “no longer consider an applicant’s qualifications, school or university when selecting trainees for interview.” In pursuit of a ‘level playing field’ the firm will use online tests to assess the ‘potential’ of an applicant. Only at the final interview will a candidate’s academic record be revealed. The main drive behind this move seems to be the desire to increase the diversity of its workforce and that the firm has a: “social obligation to break barriers that in part exclude people from certain backgrounds.” The online test is accessible here. PwC no longer considers A levels when selecting people to become graduate trainees and I attended a meeting where someone from recruitment in Barclays mentioned they were (thinking of?) doing something similar to E&Y.
Should schools start teaching children how to take online multiple choice ‘business’ tests and answer numerical reasoning questions or should they leave this entirely to their pupils? Will online courses be set up to feed what might be perceived as a need for preparation? If ‘certain’ types of people are prepared for these tests more than others will social diversity cease to be the likely outcome as the sharp elbows nudge certain young adults out of the way with the silver spooned progeny again finding their rightful place atop the heap?
The revolution starts here. For the last few years too many people have seen schools as places to develop 21st century skills for the workplace and firms have become lazy, counting GCSEs, A levels and Degrees as though they were workplace qualifications, but what if this role for school education is removed? What if more companies start to set their own tests to find people of natural ability and try to ensure these tests are ‘tutor proof’? What if more companies have a desire to employ people from a wide range of backgrounds, who offer a “more inclusive culture at the firm to drive the business forward and deliver better results for our clients.”? What if A levels and GCSEs slowly, painfully slowly, cease to be a currency for the jobs market? What if education is irrevocably split from the job’s market and is placed in the ‘education for its own sake’ world, where all are realistic about the need to study because it is good for the soul rather than the raising of potentially lucrative future tax returns?
Somewhere over the rainbow…
If transferability of academic skills and knowledge from the school room to the skills and knowledge needed for the workplace is dubious and is mainly a factor of social sifting then there will be a benefit from these changes to recruitment. Even better would be if workplaces were to offer to train people for work and help to develop their workforce over years as a social service, not as a hand-cuff to ensure they stay, but a type of ongoing training that would enable all those who wanted to/needed to move onto pastures new to do so.
In the meantime schools could be freed to teach the Arts and the Humanities, Languages, Maths and Sciences, Technology, and Physical and Spiritual education to ensure each child is engaged in the mindful pursuit of wisdom and a study in what it is to be human, and not just in the pursuit of a future career.