In January of 2016 Penguin Random House UK announced they were taking all degree requirements off their job applications. Ironically, at that same time many of us in GWU Cohort 12 were making the decision to attend Graduate School.

“Not having been through higher education will no longer preclude anyone from joining and progressing their career” was the statement that came down from the HR department. In an effort to reach the widest audience possible Penguin Random declared, “We believe this is critical to our future: to publish the best books that appeal to readers everywhere, we need to have people from different backgrounds with different perspectives and a workforce that truly reflects today’s society.”

Similarly, UK accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers made a parallel move in their industry, discontinuing the basis of hiring on a rating system. Ernst & Young, Britain’s biggest graduate recruiter, did the same citing: “We want to attract the best people to help grow and shape the future of our company, regardless of their background – and that means that we need to think and act differently. Simply, if you’re talented and you have potential, we want to hear from you.”

In February 2016 a discussion at The Scholarly Kitchen asked, Is It Necessary to Have An Advanced Degree To Succeed in Publishing? The resounding answer from the panel: “it depends.” One response: “People with advanced degrees have already demonstrated their ability to learn things, to learn on a large scale, and to learn quickly: this has a reasonable chance to carry over.” Another: “Necessary? No. Helpful? Sometimes.” And concluding: “There are many factors that lead to an individual’s success in any field. Their preparatory education is only one of those variables. Finding their passion seems to be another, as is drive, lifestyle requirements, cultural fit, etc. To anticipate success or failure based on education alone feels like a vast oversimplification.”

In August 2016 Brian O’Leary proposed the idea that “book publishing would benefit from an investment in certification.” He continued, “The industry has yet to develop a core curriculum that describes what we expect from a digitally literate editor, publisher, or marketer.”

O’Leary believes the graduate programs are incomplete. Our professors at GWU might disagree with his assessment: “The courses are for the most part taught by industry professionals who develop their own curriculum based on experience, not cutting-edge research. This approach means that degree candidates hear past practices as best practices, at a time when digital access is changing the rules. Few address supply-chain issues, even though the most junior editors need to understand how to use and interpret data drawn from distribution and sales. Technology has made both print and digital book production much more flexible and complex, but courses on those topics are rare.”

O’Leary concludes with the idea that certification programs would give publishing “an opportunity to celebrate those among us who want to improve themselves and our industry.” And that “we need that kind of commitment in publishing, both to retain our most committed talent and to foster a culture of education and improvement.”

And finally, this week in Frankfurt, a keynote by Wiley CEO Mark Allin shared: “Wiley works with universities and corporations around the world to address the ‘global talent crisis’ helping to identify employment opportunities and help recruit, develop and retain talent.” Allin claimed that “college graduates are not receiving all of the skills needed, and they will be competing for jobs that have yet to be created.”

Disruption can be frightening, as can the culture of “good enough.” Whether potential and passion can replace experience and knowledge is yet to be determined, but we here in Cohort 12 are proudly on the frontlines of learning, preserving, extending, adapting, and improving ourselves and the publishing industry, for the greater good.


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