Because occupational licensure is largely created and implemented at the state level, there exists a patchwork of different policies and requirements for professional practice. This creates a consistent trend of veterans and military spouses having a greater barrier to licensed professions due to frequent moves and unrecognized training. Approaches to easing these challenges vary as state legislatures and governors have taken steps to do so. One example of attempting to remedy this problem is the formation of the Washington State Military and Readiness Transition Council (WSMTRC).
Founded in 2013, the WSMTRC is a joint project between a variety of executive agencies as part of the broader mission of veteran assistance in Executive Order 13-01. Since that time, the WSMTRC has consistently updated its goals and strategies with stakeholder input to better serve veterans and military spouses at key career transition points. With a new executive order (19-01) released in 2019, Washington further expanded the responsibility of state licensing agencies to assist veterans in their transition to civilian life.
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.
There are two types of apprenticeship programs: registered apprenticeship programs validated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. The requirements for entering a registered apprenticeship program include being at least 16 years of age and registering with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship or a state apprenticeship agency. Most also require a high school diploma or Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED). Apprenticeship programs range from around 12 months to six years and end with a nationally recognized certificate of completion.
Micro-credentials are a form of credentialing gaining popularity to allow career advancement without full stops for additional degrees in licensed professions. Similar to continuing educations requirements, micro-credentials (sometimes known as ‘badges’) focus on practicing professionals looking to gain skills or specific content knowledge to increase their value to employers and patients, students and clients. They are very popular in the education field, allowing licensed teachers to expand their abilities and upgrade their licenses or increase their scope of practice without or in addition to a graduate level degree.
Most micro-credentials are similar to abbreviated college-level programs but also can be earned with practical experience through observation. These micro-credentials can then be added to resumes or online job profiles such as on LinkedIn to demonstrate a skill in seeking a promotion or during a job search in a new district.
A recent paper from the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) and Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy identifies the need for regulatory reforms championed by The Council of State Governments
The Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiative, a project that convened leaders from the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) and Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy, recently published National Dialogue for Healthcare Innovation: Framework for Private-Public Collaboration on Disaster Preparedness.
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.
In recent years, states have worked to reduce barriers to interstate mobility for licensed professionals through interstate licensure compacts—statutorily enacted agreements among states allowing licensees to practice across state lines—and universal license recognition laws, in which a single state determines its unique process to grant a license by endorsement to a license holder from another state or territory. These policies help to solve similar problems, but there are several major differences. Notably, compacts are tailored to a particular profession and allow licensees to engage in interstate practice in all compact member states, whereas universal recognition laws attempt to account for most or all professions a state regulates, but only with regard to practice within that state’s borders. The following resource provides a summary comparison of some of the benefits states may realize from each policy.
“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.
As states seek ways to improve occupational licensure portability for out-of-state workers, “universal licensure recognition” laws have gained popularity. Since 2019, eight states have either implemented new or reworked existing license portability policies that may be defined under the universal licensure recognition model. The model generally sets less restrictive and more uniform licensure portability standards across most or all licensed occupations within the state.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread quickly throughout the United States, it became readily apparent to state leaders that health care workforce capacities might be overwhelmed. Many states provisionally amended occupational licensure policies to reduce regulatory burdens and increase the capacity of hospitals. Non-health care occupations also were temporarily relieved of certain licensing requirements, especially those reliant on in-person services such as continuing education. All 50 states and Washington D.C. passed some licensure streamlining actions in 2020, typically through executive orders and administrative rule changes. These changes are analyzed in a recent policy report by The Council of State Governments (CSG) researchers: “Assessing COVID-19 Occupational Licensing Policy Actions”.
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.