ASPA NEWS: Thousands of Maryland government jobs will no longer require a four-year college degree

Some state government jobs will no longer require applicants to have a four-year college degree under a new initiative announced by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday to expand job opportunities.

Thousands of state jobs in every department will be open to applicants with relevant experience and training, particularly in the information technology, administrative and customer-service sectors, which previously required a college degree. The workforce development initiative comes as the state is experiencing a record number of job vacancies, which is creating issues across state agencies, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

The state has more than 8,600 vacant positions within the executive branch. The Maryland Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services each have a 14% vacancy rate, and numerous other departments have vacancy rates of 10% or higher.

Positions that have the highest vacancy rates include parole and probation agents, correctional officers, case managers for juvenile services, registered nurses, social workers, nursing assistants, vocational rehabilitation specialists, IT and fiscal services.

The state government is one of Maryland’s largest employers with more than 38,000 workers.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management estimates that more than half of all government jobs can be staffed by workers with relevant skills, rather than a college degree. Under the initiative, more than 300 state government jobs currently are open to applicants without a bachelor’s degree who are active in the labor force, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and have developed skills through community college, apprenticeships, military service, boot camps or previous job experience.

“We really want an economy where if you can do the job, you can get the job. And if you can learn new valuable skills, you can earn more,” said Byron Auguste, co-founder and CEO of Opportunity@Work, at a news conference.

Auguste’s nonprofit will partner with the state budget and management department to identify eligible workers for state jobs.

Out of more than 2.8 million workers in Maryland, more than 1.3 million, or 47%, are considered skilled by relevant experience that does not include a four-year college degree. Nationally, the demographic of workers who are “skilled through alternative routes” is 61% Black and 55% Hispanic; 66% are rural workers of all races, and 61% are veterans, according to data provided by a state spokesman.

“Through these efforts that we’re launching today, we are ensuring qualified, non-degree candidates are regularly being considered for these career-changing opportunities,” Hogan said at a news conference.

Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3, said that the union, which represents the majority of the state’s public workers, was blindsided by Hogan’s announcement. Union leaders expressed disappointment over Hogan’s decision not to consult the union about ways to improve employee recruitment and retention in a staffing crisis.

“It is unfortunate that the Hogan administration is deskilling state services. This is another poor attempt to suppress wages and reduce the quality of state services in Maryland,” Moran said in a statement. “Thousands of state employees worked hard to gain the knowledge and skill set to gain state employment and work for the people of Maryland only to have the Hogan administration pull the rug out from under them.”

Salaries and job standards would be not lowered by hiring candidates without a bachelor’s degree, Hogan said. The governor’s spokesman took issue with Moran’s criticism.

“This initiative will likely do more to help open doors and expand opportunities for state workers than anything Pat Moran has ever done,” the spokesman, Mike Ricci, said.

Source: Baltimore Sun


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