Digital Licensing: Higher Efficiency and Lower Cost

Focused young woman consider paperwork working on laptop.

During to the pandemic, many state occupational licensing bodies encountered barriers to their regular licensing processes. Issues with mailing delays, in-person training, exams, and fee collection prompted many executive orders and regulatory and legislative actions to waive some requirements for licensure. This has been especially important for meeting workforce shortages in healthcare and providing new ways to deliver and receive services, such as the expansion of telehealth practice. Outside of healthcare, the increasing number of jobs that require a professional license and the dramatic shift to a remote workforce has presented similar challenges and made clear the need for a more streamlined licensing process.

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Apprenticeships: An Alternative Pathway to Licensure

Overview

Apprenticeships, an “earn while you learn” program with on-the-job training for future practitioners of a trade or profession, are an increasingly available pathway toward licensure in several states. According to DOL statistics, 94% of those who complete an apprenticeship program maintain employment and earn an average salary of $70,000. With such success stories, there has been a 128% increase in new apprenticeships since 2009 and 12,300 new apprenticeship programs created in the last five years. In 2021, numerous bills about apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs have been introduced in state legislatures across the country.

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“Fair Chance” Licensing Policies Across States

Around 1 in 3 American adults have been arrested before they reach 23 years of age and between 70 and 100 million Americans have a criminal record. Because a criminal record can include speeding tickets, it is no wonder this number is so high. However, a criminal record can still inhibit individuals from finding employment or being licensed in particular occupations. Occupational licensing regulations sometimes have a blanket prohibition on individuals with any criminal convictions, or “good moral character” clauses that allow a licensing board to deny a license for an arrest without conviction. This contributes to a large segment of the population being unable to work, even if their arrest or conviction occurred years prior to their application.

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New Study: Stringent Occupational Licensing Hinders Teacher Mobility, but not Out-of-State Teacher Quality

The Effect of Occupational Licensing Stringency on the Teacher Quality Distribution,” a recent study sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds stricter licensing laws diminish teacher mobility but does not meaningfully affect the quality of teachers coming from other states. The study’s findings may be particularly illuminating for states with teacher shortages, where improving pathways for out-of-state teacher licensure recognition can be useful strategy to increase teacher mobility without harming public welfare.

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Sunrise Review Processes by State

As states assess ways to improve the occupational licensure policy process, the use of “sunrise reviews” has garnered renewed interest. A sunrise review is a specific, data-informed analysis completed before proposed regulations are considered by a state legislature. The result is better information about the proposed benefits, and potential drawbacks, of the considered regulation. For occupational licensing policy, this review allows states to consider the economic and public safety effects that licensure affords. The Council of State Governments (CSG) has identified 14 states that maintain a process for occupational licensure sunrise reviews: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

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