Pennsylvania is scrapping its college degree requirements for 65,000 state jobs, calling it an “arbitrary requirement.”

Just a day after Josh Shapiro was sworn in as Pennsylvania’s youngest governor in over 20 years, he opened “the doors of opportunity” to voters without a degree who “just want a fair shot.”

In his first executive order, Shapiro instructed hiring managers in state agencies to prioritize professional experience, not ancestry. He immediately removed the college degree requirement from 92%, or about 65,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.

In his inaugural address, Shapiro shared his vision of a Commonwealth where “every Pennsylvanian can have the freedom to chart his own course and the opportunity to succeed.” People, Shapiro said, should choose which path is best for them, rather than being dictated by arbitrary requirements or limitations.

“Listen, there are many different paths to success, whether it’s through on-the-job training, an apprenticeship, vocational training or college,” he said. “In my opinion, if you’re qualified for the job, you should get the job here in Pennsylvania.”

Study requirements reward people who pursue only one path and exclude all others, he added, “which hurts us all.” On the other hand, opening opportunities strengthens workforces, families and the economy.

Shapiro said he has directed his administration to highlight skills and experience in all state government job postings and is initiating a review of the remaining 8% of job postings that still require a degree.

Skills-based revolution

Shapiro gets out on the right foot. Numerous Fortune 500 companies, including Google, IBM and Apple, have eliminated long-standing degree requirements for their jobs. The ripple effect begins to show. As of November 2022, only 41% of US job postings required a bachelor’s degree, up from 46% in early 2019.

In 2016, IBM coined the term “new collar jobs” to describe roles that require specific skills rather than a specific degree — which Shapiro would likely say applies to the government positions he’s hoping to fill.

Shapiro follows in the footsteps of former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who made Maryland the first state to eliminate degree requirements for thousands of jobs in March 2022, citing a historically tight job market.

At the time, nearly half (47%) of Maryland workers did not have a college degree — Hogan referred to these workers as “qualified through alternative pathways,” or STARs. STARs are an “untapped pool” of workers who could fill critical roles for Maryland, Hogan added. “People shouldn’t be paid by their education, they should be paid by their ability to do the job,” he said.

Shapiro also unveiled a new job site with hundreds of skill-based job postings, which he recommends to “any Pennsylvanian who wants to get off the sidelines.”

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