It was one of the first executive orders that brand-new governor Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, signed into law this week after being sworn-in as the state’s 48th leader earlier this year — and it’s a huge milestone for employees who haven’t always had access to higher education. Rather than mandating the college degree, state recruiters will instead be looking for applicable work experience and skill sets.
The new order affects about 65,000 positions, according to local NBC affiliate WGAL-TV.
“When we open up the doors of opportunity to everyone, it strengthens our families. It strengthens our workforce, and it strengthens our economy,” Shapiro said in a statement. The politician frequently campaigned on a promise to “break barriers” to state government employment for those without higher education degrees, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The outlet also noted that about 70% of adults in Pennsylvania don’t have at least a bachelor’s degree.
In addition to the new legislation, the state of Pennsylvania has launched a new website for job seekers looking for employment within the commonwealth (located at employment.pa.gov). The average salary for such jobs is around $50,000, according to the Post-Gazette.
Beyond Pennsylvania, however, there’s some real thought concerning whether Shapiro’s latest order could set a precedent for other states to follow.
According to an Aug. 2022 New York Times report, “A four-year degree isn’t quite the job requirement it used to be.” The paper reported that fewer companies are relying on this mandate as “major American companies in every industry have pledged to change their hiring habits by opening the door to higher-wage jobs with career paths to people without four-year college degrees.”
The NYT cited nonprofit research group The Burning Glass Institute, who found that the number of employers requiring a four-year degree was 51% in 2017 but just 44% in 2021.
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