SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Utah’s governor said the state is loosening the requirements for a four-year degree as it seeks to recruit potential employees.
“Degrees have become a blanketed barrier-to-entry in too many jobs,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement. “Instead of focusing on demonstrated competence, the focus too often has been on a piece of paper. We are changing that.”
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Cox touted the state’s efforts while urging local governments and private businesses to do the same thing.
For state executive branch jobs that do not require a degree, the governor said, hiring managers are now focusing as much on a candidate’s experience and competencies as they are on educational qualifications.
The governor said this will lead to more diverse candidates and help hiring managers find qualified people. Utah’s unemployment sits at 2.1 percent, according to the latest statistics, and competition for workers has been fierce. However, the tech industry has recently seen a round of layoffs as fears about a recession loom.
“No question that the labor shortage is something that we are thinking about constantly. It wasn’t the impetus for this,” Cox said in response to a question about that. “But it is still very important and critical.”
Delta Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Joanne Smith also spoke at Tuesday's news conference, noting that the airline has adopted a “skills first” approach by removing four-year degree requirements for most of its positions.
“It’s not that we are not looking for the best qualified candidate to fill our jobs,” Smith said, “but that was a barrier.”
Delta Airlines employs about 5,000 people in the Salt Lake City area, Smith said.
Asked which state agencies will be most benefitted by removing degree requirements in the recruitment process, Cox pointed to the Department of Workforce Services, the newly combined Department of Health and Human Services, and IT positions.
He also said higher educations remains an important step for many people.
“I hope that no one takes this as us degrading education or learning. That is not the purpose of today,” the governor said. “It’s to elevate education and learning, and understanding that education and learning comes in lots of different forms, and we should recognize those forms and we should reward those forms.”