Some CEOs Suggest Dropping Degree Requirements in Hiring

Millions of jobs requiring a four-year college degree can be done without that level of education, some corporate leaders say.

To address inequalities in business and society, some executives suggest that companies shake up their approach to hiring and consider unconventional candidates. Black Americans in particular are often left unprepared by the U.S. education system, and companies could help by hiring workers without a degree and giving them training, Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., said Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.

“It’s really important for us to recognize that because people haven’t had an opportunity early in their lives, it doesn’t mean that they can’t make a real contribution to your company,” Mr. Frazier said. “We want to just recognize that, in some ways, this is a harder population, but, at the same time, if we’re committed to being the kind of country that we want to be, then this is something that business has to be willing to do.”

Mr. Frazier, with a coalition of dozens of other business leaders, including former International Business Machines Corp. Chief Executive Virginia Rometty, launched a startup last year called OneTen, aiming to create one million jobs for Black Americans over the next 10 years.

He and Ms. Rometty called on companies to re-evaluate their hiring criteria. Otherwise, “you will never fix this economic opportunity issue,” Ms. Rometty said.

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