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Bridging the Gap: Reevaluating the Value of Education in the Professional Landscape

As we approach the first anniversary of our journey together as CAN WiN in April, Crystal Woligroksi, CAN WiN's Inclusive Workforce Specialist for the Mountain & Prairie region, delves into a topic that continues to show up in our work with job seekers with disabilities - education. While education is often hailed as the great equalizer, granting individuals the tools to unlock opportunities and reach their full potential, the reality is far more complex.

A white man sits in an office in a navy suit. He's holding and looking at a diploma with his hand over his mouth questioning its value. Words overlaid are the title of the article.

Today, we explore the privileges associated with education, highlighting the unfortunate truth that many, for various reasons, do not have access to this fundamental right, preventing them form achieving sustainable employment. Additionally, we shed light on the disproportionate value employers place on scholarly education, particularly master's degrees, over experiential learning and college-level education.

The Privilege of Education:

Education is often viewed in the professional development landscape as a cornerstone of personal and societal development. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that education, particularly higher education, is a privilege that not everyone can afford. The rising costs of tuition, coupled with the economic disparities in various regions, create barriers that limit access to education. As a result, a significant portion of the population is excluded from the transformative power of learning.

Inequities in educational opportunities exacerbate social divides, perpetuating a cycle where those with access to education have a head start with job applications and advancement opportunities. A lack of financial resources should not be a barrier to knowledge, and addressing this issue is crucial for building a more equitable and just society.

Overvaluing Scholarly Education:

In many corporate HR teams, the emphasis on scholarly education, especially master's degrees, has become the norm. While advanced degrees undoubtedly offer specialized knowledge, they don't always equate to practical skills or real-world experience. This overvaluation can create a skewed hierarchy, favoring those with academic credentials over individuals with diverse, hands-on experiences.

Experiential Learning and College-Level Education:

Experiential learning, gained through internships, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training, is often undervalued in comparison to formal degrees. Many industries require specific skills and practical knowledge that can be better acquired through hands-on experiences rather than traditional classroom settings. College-level education, which includes courses and certifications, also holds intrinsic value but tends to be overshadowed by the allure of prestigious degrees.

The Path Forward:

To address these issues, a shift in perspective is necessary. We invite Employers to recognize the diverse pathways to expertise and competency. A candidate's value should not solely be determined by the letters behind their name but rather by the skills, adaptability, and practical knowledge they bring to the table.

Furthermore, initiatives to make education more accessible must be prioritized. This includes addressing financial barriers, providing alternative learning paths, and promoting the value of continuous learning beyond formal education. By embracing a more inclusive approach to talent acquisition, businesses can tap into a wider pool of capable individuals, fostering innovation and diversity in the workplace.

As we reflect on the past year, it's essential to consider the role education plays in shaping our society and the opportunities it affords. By acknowledging the privilege associated with education and reevaluating the importance placed on scholarly degrees, we can work towards a more equitable future where everyone has the chance to succeed, regardless of their educational background. Education should be a beacon of hope, guiding individuals towards fulfilling their potential and contributing to a brighter, more inclusive world.

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Here at CAN WiN, we offer FREE accessible recruitment, retention, training, and consulting services for employers in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. We recruit for many different career opportunities, from entry to senior-level positions, on behalf of employers who are committed to workforce inclusion of people with disabilities.


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The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability employment issues. Serving customers across the United States and around the world for more than 35 years, JAN provides free practical guidance and technical assistance on job accommodation solutions, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities.

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Open Door Group and Presidents Group collaborated on this tool, created from recent international research on practices that truly increase inclusion and retention of people with disabilities in the workplace.


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