Working paper

Skills or a degree? The rise of skills-based hiring for AI and green jobs

We explore whether employers have started focusing on individual skills rather than on formal qualifications in their recruiting.

Publishing date
14 December 2023
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Executive summary

For emerging professions, such as jobs in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) or sustainability (green), labour supply does not meet industry demand. In this scenario of labour shortages, our work aims to understand whether employers have started focusing on individual skills rather than on formal qualifications in their recruiting. By analysing a large time series dataset of around one million online job vacancies between 2019 and 2022 from the United Kingdom, and drawing on diverse literature on technological change and labour market signalling, we provide evidence that employers have started so-called ‘skill-based hiring’ for AI and green roles, as more flexible hiring practices allow them to increase the available talent pool. In our observation period the demand for AI roles grew twice as much as average labour demand. At the same time, the mention of university education for AI roles declined by 23 percent, while AI roles advertise five times as many skills as job postings on average. Our regression analysis also shows that university degrees no longer show an educational premium for AI roles, while for green positions the educational premium persists. In contrast, AI skills have a wage premium of 16 percent, similar to having a PhD (17 percent). Our work recommends making use of alternative skill building formats such as apprenticeships, on-the-job training, MOOCs (massive open online courses), vocational education and training, micro-certificates and online bootcamps to use human capital to its full potential and to tackle talent shortages.

This was produced within the project "Future of Work and Inclusive Growth in Europe" with the financial support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

About the authors

  • Fabian Stephany

    Fabian Stephany is a Non-Resident Fellow at Bruegel and a member of the Future of Work and Inclusive Growth project which analyses the impact of technology on the nature, quantity and quality of work, welfare systems and inclusive growth. He is a Departmental Research Lecturer in AI & Work at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford, and a Research Affiliate at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin.

    With the Skill Scale Project, Fabian investigates how we can create sustainable jobs via data-driven reskilling in times of technological disruption. He is a co-creator of the Online Labour Observatory – a digital data hub, hosted by the OII and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), for researchers, policy makers, journalists, and the public interested in online platform work.

    Fabian holds a PhD and degrees in Economics and Social Sciences from different European institutions, including Universitá Bocconi Milan and University of Cambridge. As an Economist and Senior Data Scientist, Fabian has been facilitating Digital Policy Entrepreneurship with partners in the international policy landscape, such as the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the ILO, or the OECD in Paris.

  • Eugenia Gonzalez Ehlinger

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