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Commentary: No tech degree from a university? Why you may be a company’s best hire

Technology is rapidly pushing industries to evolve, and businesses must adapt quickly. 

With global technology trends robustly evolving, companies are looking beyond traditional tech roles and creating new and hybrid roles to ensure business agility. 

With global technology trends robustly evolving, companies are looking beyond traditional tech roles and creating new and hybrid roles to ensure business agility. 

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Technology is rapidly pushing industries to evolve, and businesses must adapt quickly. 

Bouncing back from the Covid-19 pandemic, many industries are facing a talent crunch and organisations are having to think out of the box to expand their pool of potential candidates and increase their chances of finding suitably-skilled hires, by eschewing university degree requirements. 

According to the World Economic Forum, skills-based hiring is one of the key trends shaping this world of work, leading to a decline in graduate recruitment. 

In fact, the term “new-collar workers” has existed for a decade now, signalling respect for non-degreed tech professionals who have earned their skills through non-traditional means. 

Yet, despite the world’s largest employers taking the lead in newer ways of hiring, many other companies are still playing catch-up. 

General Assembly’s State of Tech Talent 2023 report, which examined data from over 1,000 hiring managers in 10 countries, found that 52 per cent of HR managers’ job postings for tech roles list a university degree as a requirement, while 45 per cent cite university degrees as a top-two determining factor. 

Compare that to 90 per cent of respondents, who expressed concerns regarding current recruitment and hiring methods being insufficient to fill their open tech positions in today’s labour market. 

Despite this talent crunch, only 23 per cent of recruiters in the General Assembly report have updated their job requirements to provide greater opportunities for candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. 

This is true in Singapore, too. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that companies are still scrambling for tech talent this year, as software, web and multimedia developers, application managers, and systems analysts were some of the top job vacancies that remained unfilled for at least six months. 

Figures from MOM showed that 34.1 per cent of employers said these positions were hard to fill because of a lack of specialised skills. 


When it comes to tech roles, recruiters are often conflicted about diversifying their talent pool by looking beyond graduates with relevant university degrees. 

Yet, those who have made the plunge have seen worthwhile results — and provided their hires with thriving careers. 

Take Ace Chua, 34, a graduate from General Assembly who came from the construction industry without a tech degree. 

After completing an immersive programme in web development, he acquired relevant skills that helped him land his first tech role at professional services firm Accenture as an application development analyst.

He was able to further build on his digital skillset and moved to a software engineering role at cloud technology firm BitTitan.  

Today, he continues to further his tech career and works at online food and grocery delivery platform Foodpanda as a backend engineer as he adds new projects to his portfolio and strengthens his footing within the industry. 

Mr Chua is not alone. 

With companies across diverse industries reassessing their staffing needs and flexible hiring requirements, individuals with a creditable range of tech competencies and digital skills, regardless of educational or vocational backgrounds, are finding new avenues for employment. 


As companies feel the squeeze of Singapore’s talent shortage, consulting firm PwC suggests that initiating a job redesign can be one way to ease the crunch. 

With global technology trends robustly evolving, companies are looking beyond traditional tech roles and creating new and hybrid roles to ensure business agility. 

The Digital Talent Forecast by General Assembly and labour market analytics firm Emsi Burning Glass found that even traditional industries such as manufacturing have already digitised on an industry level, with 38 per cent of job postings within the industry requiring at least one digital skill. This will only ramp up in the coming years. 

The Infocomm Media Development Authority predicts that emerging tech trends such as 5G and Internet of Things will lead to increasing demand for skills in at least three areas: Software engineering, cloud and mobility, and artificial intelligence and analytics. 

That said, businesses are re-establishing what digital skills mean, especially in an increasingly digitalised landscape. 

It seems that digital skills are no longer limited to computer skills or even coding, but encompass other areas such as digital marketing, customer relationship management, and search engine optimisation. 

Put simply, digital skills are defined as an individual’s capability to interact, develop, or manage specific digital technologies. 

Non-traditional tech roles may require different skillsets than traditional tech roles, and having a tech degree from a university may not necessarily be a requirement to determine a candidate’s capabilities. 

Even leading tech companies are now focusing on effective soft skills and experience for technical skills — which can come from a variety of sources such as apprenticeships or micro-credentials. 


As more attention is paid to skill-based hiring, individuals can focus on upskilling and reskilling in areas they are interested in. 

Many tech courses these days do not require a degree as a prerequisite, and one’s non-tech skills could be complementary and helpful in your course of study, even if you have no prior tech knowledge. 

These programmes help you acquire these technical skills within a shorter period — a viable choice for those making mid-career switches or aiming for newer hybrid roles.

Slowly but surely, companies are gearing up for the new-collar workforce — and when it comes to tech careers, it’s anyone’s ball game.


Melanie Wu is the Head of Learning APAC at General Assembly, a New York-based education technology company and a brand of The Adecco Group. She leads learning and instruction across General Assembly's campuses in the Asia Pacific region, launching and overseeing the production of its full-time and part-time courses.

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