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Gov. Shapiro
The order was Shapiro's first act as governor, last Wednesday. Photo: Getty Images.

What does Governor Josh Shapiro’s elimination of the four-year degree requirement mean for most state jobs?

AL DÍA heard from Dr. Patricia Amberg-Blyskal, master’s professor of Bureaucracy and Public Management at Temple University, about her thoughts on it.

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Last week, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced the elimination of the four-year degree requirement for almost 92% of state jobs. The administration aims to emphasize skills and experience rather than just formal education. 

AL DÍA spoke with Dr. Patricia Amberg-Blyskal, professor of Bureaucracy and Public Management at Temple University’s Master of Public Policy program, about the pros and cons of the new order. 

For her, Shapiro’s order was a good first step to open opportunities for as many Pennsylvanians as possible — especially considering that there are currently more than 700 job vacancies within the public sector in Pennsylvania. Letting people who may not have the actual degree but can prove through their experiences that they are qualified can be a great opportunity for the state, she said. 

“I believe we know from our history that giving people opportunities and letting them find their own paths, whether it is through jobs or education, is great for our economy and communities,” Amberg-Blyskal added.  

As stated by Politics PA, according to the Department of Labor & Industry, more than seven million Pennsylvanians do not hold a four-year degree. Millions of Pennsylvanians develop their skills through alternative routes such as two-year degree programs, apprenticeships, military service, job training, and on-the-job experience.

The professor brought the discussion to her graduate students, who also highlighted how it can open up for a more diverse workforce. The more people that have career opportunities with stable salaries the more people can contribute to a retirement plan and healthcare coverage, for example. It also certainly helps not only the employees, but their families. 

Although a lot of good things can come with the new order, there are some potential problems that should be considered. Amberg-Blyskal mentioned more responsibility for the first line supervisors of new employees — because of that, she argues for more investment in training.

Her students added the importance of giving new employees extra support, rather than making them figure out the job on their own — and ending up having a poor performance and being fired. 

“You don’t just get in and flounder,” Amberg-Blyskal added. “You get in and you continue to see a path forward and success.” 

For the professor and her students, changes across the board are needed and they understand there are some problems that could come up. You can have a great idea, but the implementation and execution of it is what really matters, she said. 

Many negative comments came along with Gov. Shairo’s order last week. People argued saying it would be negative to education and professional training. Although Amberg-Blyskal understands where these thoughts are coming from, she believes there are multiple ways for a person to achieve its goals.

“If you have great skills and can demonstrate it, you can learn on the job,” she said.

When asked if she thinks this order will affect the higher education system in the state, Amberg-Blyskal said the people who can access it and want to, are already doing it. Considering the Pennsylvania adult population (18 and older), 43% have only a high school diploma or less, meaning that they rely on skills and experiences to get jobs.  

Student debt, for example, is something that prevents people who can’t afford education from pursuing it. However, for Amberg-Blyskal, the elimination of the four-year degree requirement can actually create a positive partnership that actually incentivizes people to attend higher education.  

“Getting people in the jobs allows them to develop confidence and basic skills, making them realize they need and want to pursue additional training,” she said. “Perhaps the state’s different agencies could partner with different higher education institutions to strengthen both.”

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