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State of Maryland drops degree requirements, opens door to more applicants

March 24, 2022
By: Ellen Marrison

Workforce development efforts in Maryland gained national attention this month as Gov. Larry Hogan announced the launch of a new initiative to formally eliminate the four-year college degree requirement from thousands of state jobs, substituting relevant experience, training, and/or community college education for the degree.

“Through these efforts we are launching today, we are ensuring that qualified, non-degree candidates are regularly being considered for these career-changing opportunities,” the governor said in a press release accompanying the announcement. “This is exactly the kind of bold, bipartisan solution we need to continue leading the nation by giving even more Marylanders the opportunities they need to be successful.”

The governor’s office indicated there are more than 300 currently open state government jobs that no longer require a four-year degree, all of which are now listed on “Stellarworx,” Opportunity@Work’s innovative STARs talent marketplace for those it calls STARs, or Skilled Through Alternative Routes.

Opportunity@Work Chief Customer Officer Bridgette Gray, in an email exchange with SSTI about the program, said Maryland is the organization’s first state partner, but last week they also launched a pilot in Northeast Ohio with Youngstown State University’s Division of Workforce Education and Innovation to facilitate STARs’ access to leading employers in the region, and they are also working in the Washington, D.C.-metro area, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The current effort in Maryland is starting with IT, administrative, and customer service roles, with more growth expected. 

“The State of Maryland’s approach to intentionally recruit STARs is critical to developing a labor market that supports opportunity and growth for every worker and we’re excited to support the state for every role we can,” Gray said. “Providing pathways for STARs helps them continue to develop new skills, preparing them for more advanced work and creating a stronger workforce with a broader diversity of skills. There’s no ceiling for STARs – many STARs around the country are leading organizations in executive roles right now, and more will have that opportunity in the future thanks to efforts like this one in the State of Maryland.”

While Gray said she has seen some negative responses to this approach, she emphasized that it is “crucial people understand this has nothing to do with standards – or pay – being lowered. The candidates who can now apply for these open roles are no less capable of doing the job just because they don’t have a degree. As our CEO Byron Auguste said, ‘We really want an economy where if you can do the job, you can get the job.’ And for those who believe this is a way to suppress wages, that’s just not true. The workers, whether STARs or degreed workers, will earn the same salary for the roles they are applying for.”                       

“By tapping into the 1.3 million STARs that are well trained and highly skilled, Maryland can unlock the full potential and power of STARs and create a more equitable labor market,” Gray said. “We encourage more cities to adopt this innovative approach.”

More information on the program can be found here