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Federal Jobs to Be More Accessible to Those Without Degrees (1)

June 26, 2020, 4:00 PMUpdated: June 26, 2020, 9:14 PM

An executive order from President Donald Trump is intended to allow people without college degrees to compete for certain federal agency jobs that aren’t open to them now.

“The federal government will no longer be narrowly focused on where you went to school,” Trump said before signing the order on Friday.

As a result of the order, apprenticeships, technical training, and job applicants’ backgrounds will play a greater role in federal hiring, the White House said in a statement. Only about 6% of federal workers are under the age of 30, and the order could help the government recruit younger employees who don’t have the educational backgrounds that are currently required for government jobs.

“Unless an agency is determining a candidate’s satisfaction of a legally required minimum educational requirement, an agency may consider education in determining a candidate’s satisfaction of some other minimum qualification only if the candidate’s education directly reflects the competencies necessary to satisfy that qualification and perform the duties of the position,” the order says.

Changes to the government’s job classification and qualification standards are to go into effect within 180 days, it says. The Office of Personnel Management, which acts as the government’s central HR agency, is responsible for implementing the order.

Too many people are shut out of these jobs because of the requirement that they have a college degree, even if they have the skills needed for the job, senior administration officials said earlier Friday. The government has about 2.1 million civilian workers, making it the largest employer in the U.S.

The order means that people with needed skills—such as information technology backgrounds—won’t be passed over because they don’t have a college degree, Michael Rigas, the acting OPM director, told reporters.

“While education credentials are critical in many lines of work, such as the medical and legal fields, their necessity is far less clear in other areas,” Rigas said.

“The federal job classification and qualification framework was put in place decades ago, well before the onset of the 21st century. And as you know, a lot has changed since then. Education has changed. The nature of work itself has changed. But federal hiring has been largely unchanged,” he said.

Hiring should be based primarily on talent and not on arbitrary educational requirements, said White House adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump.

Other administration officials said the order is part of a larger administration initiative to open up more job opportunities. About two-thirds of working-age Americans don’t have college degrees, they said.

Hiring ‘Back Door’?

Ivanka Trump is also the co-chair of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. The president signed the order at a meeting of the board on Friday afternoon.

“Skills-based hiring represents a fundamental transformation” for the government, board member Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University, said in a statement. “Instead of prioritizing institutional or corporate brands on a resume, we can move away from the degree as a hiring criteria and we can begin to transparently assess the skills that individual has to do the job.”

Salt Lake City-based WGU describes itself as an online, nonprofit university where students can earn degrees at an accelerated pace.

Steve Lenkart, executive director of the National Federation of Federal Employees, warned that the order could be “a ploy to pay federal employees less, or a back door to hiring buddies or political benefactors.”

“The devil is in the details, and in implementation,” he said.

(Updated with additional reporting and text of the order.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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