A Wider Ladder: Public Employers Adjust Hiring Standards
The ladder to a job in state or local government is no longer a straight shot from college through professional ranks. Alternative pathways are now welcome.
By administrative order, Governor Mike Dunleavy is removing the need for a four-year degree for most State of Alaska jobs. He frames the move as a response to difficulty filling positions.
“The State of Alaska is not immune from the nationwide labor shortage,” Dunleavy says. “If we’re going to address our labor shortage, we have to recognize the value that apprenticeships, on-the-job training, military training, trade schools, and other experience provides applicants.”
Non-traditional work experience is also accepted for jobs with the Municipality of Anchorage, but for different reasons. When he announced in November that the city would ask about supplemental experience, Mayor Dave Bronson made no mention of recruitment trouble, referring instead to broadening perspectives among staff.
“This is an important step in creating a more robust and diversified workforce at the Muni,” Bronson said. “Recognizing the skills and experience that individuals gain through work in the community will provide greater opportunities for members of underrepresented communities to work for the city.”
Both rationales overlap, to some extent. “Today people can gain knowledge, skills, and abilities through on-the-job experience,” Dunleavy says. “If a person can do the job, we shouldn’t be holding anyone back just because they don’t have a degree.”
The governor’s Administrative Order 343 requires the Department of Administration to review which job classifications are appropriate to include practical experience in lieu of, or in addition to, a four-year college degree requirement. The department would then propose that the Personnel Board amend any requirements for state jobs, and the postings shall include relevant experience in lieu of a college degree whenever reasonable.
Dunleavy points to what he calls “unprecedented workforce shortages” which are affecting delivery of essential services. The administrative order is a first step toward solving the problem of not having enough qualified applicants to fill vacancies.
College degrees have also recently been waived for state jobs in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
A job application mockup with the supplemental experience question on the Municipality of Anchorage website.
For municipal jobs, the adjusted hiring standard traces back to a 2021 city-wide listening tour. Anchorage’s Chief Equity Officer, Uluao “Junior” Aumavae, heard feedback about the need for considering non-traditional experience.
Aumavae, the Office of Equity and Justice, the Human Resources Department, and the Municipal Attorney’s Office crafted the new policy. It applies only to executive or non-union positions, and candidates must still meet minimum qualifications for each position. The policy adds a question on the job application about paid or unpaid work experience gained from working with tribal, community-based, philanthropic, religious, spiritual, professional, or social organizations.
“Anchorage is blessed to be one of the most diverse places in the country,” Aumavae says. “With these strengths working for us, it’s clear the people of Anchorage have a tremendous amount of experience that is waiting to be unleashed. This is a great opportunity for the municipality to add more value and diversity to our workforce by allowing applicants to share their skills learned through work that might not be viewed as traditional employment.”