Opinion | See Workers as Workers, Not as a College Credential – The New York Times

by | Jan 28, 2023 | Jobs

In one of the richest nations on earth, the path to prosperity has narrowed significantly in recent decades — especially for those without a college education. More than 62 percent of Americans ages 25 and up do not hold bachelor’s degrees, and the earnings gap between those with a college education and those without one has never been wider. In 2021, the difference between the median earnings of younger workers with bachelor’s degrees and workers of the same age with high-school diplomas only was $22,000 — the largest since the Federal Reserve Bank of New York began tracking earnings in 1990. That’s happening even as the cost of college spirals upward, putting it out of reach for many. This has fueled anxiety, bitterness and a sense of alienation among the millions who see themselves as shut out of an economy that does not value them.Making college more affordable is important, but there are other keys to the doors of opportunity as well. With an executive order issued on Jan. 18, his first full day as governor, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania used one of them: He eliminated the requirement of a four-year college degree for the vast majority of jobs in the state government, a change similar to one that Maryland and Utah made last year. This demonstrates both good policy and good leadership, representing a concrete change in hiring philosophy that stops reducing people to a credential and conveys that everyone — college-educated or not — has experience and worth that employers should consider. It is a step — and a mind-set — that other leaders should consider as well.The decision was driven in part by the realities of a tight labor market. Unemployment in Pennsylvania is 3.9 percent — close to the national average of 3.5 percent — and lower than it was before the pandemic. Public and private employers have been struggling to find qualified applicants, prompting a re-evaluation of hiring criteria. As Mr. Shapiro’s order notes, “In the modern labor market, applicants gain knowledge, skills and abilities through a variety of means, including apprenticeships, on-the-job training, military training and trade schools.”His move opens up 92 percent of state government jobs — approximately 65,000 positions — to anyone with “the relevant work experience and skills-based training, regardless of their educational attainment.” Job postings …

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