Executive order eliminates four-year degree requirement for most state hiring
Last month, Governor Tim Walz made it known that Minnesota was expanding hiring opportunities when he signed “Improving Access to State Employment” into law (Executive Order 23-14), which aims to recruit and retain a “talented and diverse workforce” for Minnesota state agencies.
The state government is one of Minnesota’s largest employers with nearly 38,000 employees across several agencies. Once the executive order goes into effect in early 2024, there will no longer be a requirement for a four-year degree for 75 percent of state jobs, creating access to middle-class opportunities for future applicants.
This change in degree requirements for state jobs gained traction earlier this year after Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah sent a letter urging their fellow governors to reevaluate their state’s hiring practices. The hope is that this new approach will help with the nation’s workforce shortage.
In an exclusive interview with the MSR, Governor Walz shared his motivations behind the executive order and how he plans to make Minnesota a viable option to live and work in by addressing barriers put in place years ago.
“I think more than anything it’s going to open up possibilities for people to say, ‘Look, I’d like to work in state government. It’s good work. I want to serve people. It’s got good benefits. It’s got good retirement. It’s a good stable middle-class job,’” Governor Walz said.
He shared his interest in being able to elevate the life experiences and accrued skills that prospective employees may bring to a role despite not having a college degree. Walz also referred to immigrants who come to the United States with an education and are turned away because their experience doesn’t translate directly to a degree.
The administration dismissed critics who believe that this may be the state’s way of filling empty jobs with the executive order, despite state hiring being at a five-year high. Currently, there are 1,500 openings, and roughly 27 percent of state workers are nearing retirement age, which could create an even greater shortage of workers.
Governor Walz said that this new approach to hiring will make the state more dynamic in addressing not only its aging workforce, but also addressing the decreasing state population and its diverse communities.
“The future of Minnesota is dependent on us thinking about the future workforce. We’re talking about we want this to be the best place in the country to raise a kid or have a family. We want folks to feel welcome here. We want folks to feel the opportunities here,” he said.
“But what we know is demographically, 80 percent of our workforce in the next 20 years is going to come from communities of color.”
Walz shared that his administration is looking to work with community partners to help further their recruitment efforts, an approach they developed through the pandemic when the relationships between communities of color and state officials were strained due to a history of abuse and mistrust.
“I think all too often we have a society that told people what they couldn’t do, where they couldn’t be, and I think it’s disingenuous not to say that there were systemic racial issues in there that keep people out of this,” Walz said.
The executive order makes mention of the need to increase employee retention. This increase in hiring in the governor’s eyes would allow for more employees of color to find opportunities for promotions. It also referenced a survey where 56 percent of respondents were satisfied with their career advancement opportunities.
This push for more recruitment in state jobs is a part of the administration’s approach to making Minnesota an attractive place for people to live. Walz cited the free college for all initiative and his administration’s work on providing early childhood care and scholarships.
“I’ll make the case that the child tax credit is going to move about a third of our kids that are in poverty out of that,” he said. “We’ve got good-paying middle-class jobs with great schools. We’re going to help you out with your child care and we’re going to make sure that this child tax credit helps.”
The executive order directs Minnesota’s Management and Budget Office to make changes to the state’s career website by July 2024, to improve job search capabilities, and improve the overall application process.