The State of Maryland did something interesting this week to fill its open positions and create an applicant pipeline. Following an order by Maryland governor Larry Hogan, the state eliminated college degree requirements from hundreds of state jobs.
State agencies eliminated degree requirements (where possible) from their job descriptions. Instead, agencies will focus on finding candidates with an acceptable combination of education and/or experience. Agencies hope the change will draw more qualified applicants into fields like IT and administrative positions, where college degrees are often unnecessary.
In most cases, state jobs required applicants to have a four-year degree. However, the order eliminates all degree requirements whenever possible. Motivating the state’s decision was the fact that nearly half of Maryland residents possess in-demand skills but do not have a formal college degree. In those cases, people typically gained the required skill set through on-the-job work experience.
While that seems like a way to encourage applicants to apply for state jobs, it also reduces demand for post-secondary education. That could have a longer-term impact not only on four-year schools, but community colleges as well. The Maryland state government is one of the largest employers in the state. With a payroll that includes more than 97,000 people, The State of Maryland is eclipsed only by Marriott International and Lockheed Martin in terms of size.
When a college degree blocks career mobility
The change in education requirements will have a massive impact on the state’s hiring practices, but it will encourage other employers to drop degree requirements, too. Remember, everyone competes for the same pool of employees. Eliminating basic requirements like a college degree will not only make it easier for the State of Maryland to attract a larger applicant pool, but also increase the career mobility of people who may already have jobs but find it difficult to move because they lack a college degree.
As competition heats up for available workers, more employers may eliminate their college degree requirements. This isn’t a great development for institutions whose bread and butter comes from producing the college degrees employers currently require. It reinforces the idea higher education institutions must find ways to add unique value to their college degrees.
This will turn post-secondary education on its head. For decades, people have believed that a college degree was the path to a good job. What happens when employers decide that a college degree less a requirement than a barrier?
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