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University of Phoenix leadership discusses skills-based hiring and what it means for workers, students and employers

By Sharla Hooper

Vice Provost Doris Savron shares insights and guidance during a media tour on how skills can be part of worker career planning and employer retention strategies

University of Phoenix Vice Provost of Colleges, Assessment and Curriculum Doris Savron shared insights and guidance on the shift to skills-based hiring in the labor market during a media tour on February 27, 2024. More employers are beginning to move away from the emphasis on four-year degree requirements to greater recognition of valuable skills. Savron discussed the transition to skills-based hiring in the workforce and how workers can leverage their skills, employers can develop talent, and education leaders can empower learners and job seekers in this new era of skills-based hiring.

According to the 2023 Career Optimism Index® study by the University of Phoenix Career Institute®, 75 percent of Americans say they are seeking skills development opportunities or certifications, and 70 percent say if their companies gave them more opportunities to apply new skills, they would be more likely to stay throughout their career. Studies by workforce research leaders McKinsey and Deloitte make the case for focusing on skills as well.

“Workforce recruitment has been shifting to a skills focus for talent rather than degrees only,” shares Savron. “Employers are realizing that traditional approaches to hiring and building skills struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation. Skills-based hiring offers the ability to better assess a diverse talent pool and act more quickly to retain current employees for internal career mobility.”

A leader of skills-aligned learning and badging initiatives at University of Phoenix, Savron was recently a featured guest of The EdUp Experience podcast

“Degrees still have value, but if individuals can identify their skills, they can more quickly also identify career opportunities and make career shifts,” Savron shared. She recommended that individuals look at current jobs, volunteer activity and work done through life experience as a caretaker or parent, the document the skills being gained and make them part of a resume and shareable online profiles: “There are durable skills that are always relevant – like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, and character skills, too, like fortitude, a growth mindset, and leadership.”

For individuals enrolled in higher education, Savron recommended tracking the skills being gained from coursework: “At University of Phoenix, we offer our students a digital skills dashboard so they can see, in real time, the skills they are gaining at a glance. If your school does not provide this, make sure that you are documenting the skills you acquire for your own use. Track all skills acquired from other learning activities and save or store all artifacts including certificates and badges.”

Savron and her team, along with leaders from across the university, championed the University of Phoenix transition to a skills-mapped curriculum and implementation of a skills dashboard to help students acquire and identify skills in weeks, rather than years, yielding value from their education as they progress through courses rather than just at the point of graduation. Savron co-authored a white paper on the subject which provided a foundational reflection of the University of Phoenix focus on providing career-relevant, skills-based education and authentic assessment for working adult students.

Savron advised employers to consider how skills-based hiring contributes to efficiencies in development and retention: “Employers need to identify skills critical for each role and develop clear pathways for employees to understand how to move to the next best role in the organization. If they leverage tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and collect the right kinds of data, they can really understand their talent pool potential, and then match those with the needs of the organization.”

Savron draws on more than 23 years of experience in higher education as Vice Provost, overseeing the strategy for University of Phoenix academic programs and curriculum design, institutional assessment and faculty. Her role includes oversight of strategy for degree, certificate and course offerings, design of curriculum and student learning outcomes for the University. Savron works collaboratively with her team members to innovate academic solutions that enable the University to provide exceptional student experiences and learning environments to support student success. 

Savron is often sought out as a speaker for her expertise on mapping relevant skills in programs and building an infrastructure to support career tools in curriculum design, micro credentialing and other innovations in curriculum (1EdTech, PACRAO). Savron earned her MBA from Cleveland State University and is completing her doctorate in management in organizational leadership.

Savron shared these insights during a virtual media tour on February 27, speaking with more than 20 media outlets across the U.S. 

Learn more about skills-based hiring and workforce transitions here.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit