Center for American Progress

RELEASE: State and Local Governments Should Adopt Skills-Based Hiring Programs
Press Release

RELEASE: State and Local Governments Should Adopt Skills-Based Hiring Programs

Washington, D.C. — A new report from the Center for American Progress and Opportunity@Work recommends that state and local governments use skills-based hiring practices to bolster their workforces, which were decimated at the start of the pandemic and have barely returned to pre-pandemic levels. 

State and local governments are more likely than the private sector to require that applicants hold a bachelor’s degree, creating an obstacle for many otherwise-qualified candidates. The report advocates for state and local governments to adopt skills-based hiring programs, in which employers evaluate job seekers based on applicants’ skills rather than formal degrees, as a way to attract more qualified candidates. 

There are more than 70 million U.S. workers who are skilled through alternative routes (STARs) rather than a bachelor’s degree. Right now, state and local governments are screening out millions of qualified STARs by including formal bachelor’s degree requirements on job listings, by preferring candidates with bachelor’s degrees, or by exhibiting unintentional biases that underestimate the skills of STARs. Skills-based hiring could result in more qualified candidates, more equitable hiring, higher performance, and better retention.

The report identifies five components to successful implementation of a skills-based approach: involving key stakeholders, identifying target job roles, reconsidering degree requirements to build a skills-based job description, building recruitment partnerships, and investing in worker training.

“State and local governments are only as efficient and effective as the people who work for them,” said Marina Zhavoronkova, senior fellow for workforce development at CAP and co-author of the report. “Adopting a skills-based hiring approach along with robust job training is an important way that state and local governments can attract, retain, and diversify their workforces, ensuring that they are providing better services for their communities.”

“STARs represent more than 50 percent of the workforce, and so employers who don’t have a skills-based hiring strategy only have half a talent strategy,” said India Heckstall, STARs policy manager at Opportunity@Work. “When Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) removed degree requirements in Maryland and created new opportunities for STARs, Maryland hired 41 percent more STARs compared with the same period the previous year. We encourage more state and local governments to follow suit and create more opportunities for STARs to translate their learning into earning.”

Read the report: “The Benefits of Skills-Based Hiring for the State and Local Government Workforce” by Marina Zhavoronkova and Kate Naranjo

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at [email protected]


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