Qualifications don’t always make for great employees

If, like me, you judge people by their actions rather than the letters after their name, then the chances are you won’t approve of the suggestions made in a key new study into policing.
The Windsor report, an independent review into the pay and working conditions of police staff, has recommended introducing a pre-entry qualification for anyone wanting to become a member of Her Majesty’s Constabulary.
If adopted, the idea would necessitate any potential copper gaining a level four qualification – that’s one stage higher than A-levels and the equivalent of a certificate of higher education.
Now, I’m all for the police service employing the best and brightest but I can’t help but think that this de-humanising approach to recruitment is rather short-sighted.
Anyone in a job will tell you that within their organisation there are some well-qualified people who, frankly, couldn’t be trusted to run a bath.
Worse, some of these people have risen to the dizzy heights of managing others – despite a lack of common sense or any people skills.
I’m afraid it is the price that has to be paid when employers are hoodwinked by qualifications and a decent interview technique.
You see, academic achievement is all well and good but that doesn’t necessarily translate to brilliance in the workplace.
For example, the best journalist I ever worked with had a City & Guilds qualification in woodwork.
He had what we writers term ‘a lovely turn of phrase’ and could charm anyone he met – an invaluable skill for any hack.
By contrast I have met reporters who went to the best universities in the land but who have the social skills of a gnat and who appear to write with a trowel.
Oh, and for the record, graduating from university with a media studies degree doesn’t mean you can write flawless copy or that the Pulitzer Prize suddenly beckons.
When I left school back in 1990 only the cream of the crop from each school went on to study A-levels. Even fewer then progressed to a university education. These days degrees are 10 a penny and pretty much a pre-requisite for anyone wanting to work in my profession.
Theoretically, this seismic shift in educational attainment should mean that employers are able to cherry pick the best candidates for any vacancy. If only things were that simple.
The truth is that being good at your job has a lot more to do with attitude and application than any piece of paper – no matter how good your grades are.
Police offers will be the first to say that interpersonal skills are the key weapon in any copper’s arsenal. I suspect a level four qualification in such things is rare.
Surely training and up-skilling within the police service is the way in which talent and potential should be harnessed – allowing the best brains to rise to the top.
What about courage, integrity and a sense of public duty? You won’t find these on any college or university course but one would like to think that most coppers possess such personality traits.
Depriving people with limited academic ability but bags of potential in other areas of a career in the police seems absurd.
We will always need community-minded, kind-hearted beat bobbies and PCSOs just as much as we need brilliant detectives.
Now imagine if a similar criteria was used to recruit for our Armed Forces.
I dread to think of how many good soldiers, sailors and airmen and women would be prevented from donning a uniform.
Apart from anything else, the simple cost of higher education is becoming a serious barrier to many people.
It is vital that we tread that fine line between promoting aspiration and rewarding achievement while, at the same time, not excluding the less academically-gifted who may still have so much to offer our public sector.


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