Many employers use the criterion of a high school diploma even though a job applicant may have had years of experience doing the job for which he or she is applying.
In America, a high school diploma is fairly easy to obtain, and it is entirely free. Many communities offer subsidized GED classes for those who did not get a high school diploma making the GED more difficult, though still relatively easy to obtain.
While the diploma may not provide relevant training for a particular job, the fact that a candidate has, in the past made such a series of bad decisions, or exhibited other personal characteristics that has prevented them from achieving a simple task like graduating high school or getting a GED is a warning sign to employers.
Will an employee who didn't have the gumption or "stick-to-it" attitude to attend class and earn a C average be committed enough to show up for work every day and give it their all? Or will they take home enough pay to get by for a while then decide to quit?
While there may always be the rare exception with extraordinary circumstances, the employer should not have to take a chance on dozens who may lack the fortitude to stay on the job in hopes of finding that rare exception.
In order to prove to the employer that you are capable of sticking with something and completing a task, a diploma or GED should be required for all adult job seekers.
In my comment I was referring to people who had worked for many years and were then laid off but who had the skills to perform the same type of job even though they hadn't finished high school. Yes, I agree that it's not so hard to finish high school if one is motivated to do so, but many students feel discouraged because of falling behind (maybe all the way back since first grade!) and just don't see the point anymore.
To my point, if someone gets discouraged or faces an adversity and chooses to quit rather than to work hard and catch up that says something about their personality and it raises a red flag to potential employers.
Even if someone has many years experience in a field, they simply may have that experience because they never faced a challenge or adversity in their job before. If there were a challenge that arises at the new job, would the employee be capable of rising to the occasion or would they get discouraged and quit? For a dropout the record indicates they are more likely to do the latter.
As an employer, it would take a lot of time and getting to know someone to alleviate the concerns brought about by that red flag and as Josh stated below, given a large pool of candidates without that red flag, it would be wasteful to dig deeper into the work and personal history of the candidate without the diploma.
It isn't clear to my why sticking with a job for a number of years doesn't demonstrate just as much tenacity and ability to stick with things, through both good and challenging times, as a high school diploma or GED does.
I don't know many people who are lucky enough to have jobs that are never challenging in one sense or another - even if the challenge is just living through the boredom, the physical intensity, or other less pleasant elements often associated with jobs that don't require formal training. While I probably wouldn't treat a series of short term jobs with the respect I would a high school diploma or GED, skills being equal I would probably choose someone who has stuck with the same job for - say - 5 years over someone fresh out of school with nothing more than a high school diploma (or a GED).
Regardless of who is right about what (other than book learning) a high school degree actually proves, there are many people who have put in considerable time on the job, but not necessarily in the classroom, and who are currently out of work in large part because of the general state of the economy. How do we bring those people back in to the work force. To Nora's point, how do we/they convince employers to treat a high school diploma as one thing, of perhaps many. which is a good indicator of the characteristics that a diploma is currently being treated as a stand-in for, rather than rejecting them sight unseen because they can't check "yes" next to the box for high school diploma or the equivalent.
Nancy - There are more people looking for jobs then we have positions to fill. Especially in today's economy in Cleveland. My business is too small to have an HR department to give every candidate an equal shake, if we wanted to.
We have to have some method of filtering applicants down to a small group of candidates.
In theory I agree with you. There are people who dropped out of high school who are dedicated, hard working people. But in my experience, those people are few and far between. I just don't have the time or resources to sift through the sawdust for the gold I may have missed.
I'm not suggesting that you sort through all of the sawdust - just that you use a filter that takes into account that extended service in a single job is probably the equivalent of a high school degree/GED in terms of things that matter (as long as you are not looking for book knowledge). Exclude applicants who do not have a high school degree/GED or continuous job experience of at least 5 years (or whatever number you think represents the equivalent of the dedication it took to get a high school diploma or GED).
That still narrows down the field, without shutting out folks who have proven to be solid, dedicated workers, but who just don't happen to have the particular paper that you are using as a filter, since your filter is not being used for what the paper itself represents, but to establish that they were wiling to stick through what it took to get the paper.
I'm a small business owner and I occasionally hire young people at my company in Cuyahoga County.
We ask interviewees to prove that they have the drive and motivation to see a project through to the end. For that reason, we ask about diplomas/GED's.
The lack of a diploma or GED is much more telling than having one. I know many lazy people who finished high school. I don't know many persistent and hard working people who dropped out.
A college degree, being elective, is slightly better at demonstrating your ability to see things through.
All this being said, there are exceptions to every rule. This shouldn't be a blind filter which you use to reject candidates, but it should raise a red flag that you need to investigate further. Given a pool of other qualified candidates with diplomas, it may not behoove me to dig deeper.
So many people are unemployed even though they have honed job skills over many years of working. However, they may also have never gotten a high school diploma or a GED. Although a high school diploma or a GED is valuable, having taught GED classes, I don't believe that that makes a person better able to do a specific task. Is there a way to educate employers that they should use other criteria when deciding whom to hire? I don't believe that not having high school diploma or a GED should automatically disqualify a person for a job.