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LinkedIn’s CEO says the U.S. cares too much about four-year college degrees

Skills, not diplomas, need to be valued more, says Jeff Weiner.

A traditional college education is expensive. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner also thinks it might be overvalued.

“Historically here, there’s been a tremendous amount of weight that’s been given to four-year university degrees and not nearly enough weight in my opinion is given to vocational training facilities and vocational training certifications,” Weiner said Tuesday at Recode’s Code Enterprise conference in San Francisco.

Weiner was discussing the ever-widening educational gap between two-year vocational programs and traditional four-year degrees. Quite frankly, he believes that specific skills, not diplomas, need to be valued more in today’s workforce.

“We would do much better if we stopped ensuring that everyone had to have a four-year degree to get certain types of jobs and started being open to the fact that there’s a much broader array of talents and skills and perspectives and experiences that people can be successful,” Weiner continued.

There’s a good reason Weiner has these views: LinkedIn may be more equipped than most to try to bridge this educational gap. That’s because the company bought online learning company back in the spring of 2015, and has spent the last 18 months trying to incorporate the site’s video library into LinkedIn’s other products.

Here’s LinkedIn’s vision: The company knows what jobs are available, what skills are needed to qualify for those jobs, and then which online classes candidates will need to acquire those skills. It can, theoretically, provide the necessary training for each job opening on LinkedIn.

The challenge, though, is in line with Weiner’s original point: The value of four-year degrees is often higher than simply acquiring one-off skills. So could LinkedIn offer certificates for online classes? Or even a LinkedIn degree?

“We haven’t gone as far as considering a whole degree,” Weiner said. “The first step would be providing some kind of certification, and even that would be second order. Right now we want to provide the courses that our members need to acquire the skills that they want and desire to get the jobs that are out there.”

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