Murphy, saying experience can mean as much as education, takes away need for bachelor’s degree for some state jobs

N.J. will begin 6-month review of public-sector jobs to determine which ones should count learned skills at same level as schooling

Byron Auguste, the CEO of Opportunity@Work, calls those in the workforce without four-year degrees STARS — as in, workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes.

Whether it be through military service, community college, workforce training or on-the-job learning, this group of workers are vital to the workplace. The pandemic, when these STARS made up 70% of the essential workers, proved this, Auguste said.

On Monday, these STARS were given more of opportunity to be paid like those who have four-year degrees.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 327, which expands job opportunities for New Jerseyans by prioritizing skills and work experience over college degree requirements for certain state employment opportunities.

Murphy said the approximately 40% of the more than 5,000 job titles cataloged by the Civil Service Commission require an applicant to hold a four-year degree.

The order changes that. It directs the CSC to identify the job classifications that require college degrees and determine which are appropriate to revise in the state’s classification plan, prioritizing the practical skills and experiences needed to effectively serve the public over strict educational requirements. It should take approximately six months to review all the openings and potential openings.

Murphy said this executive order will open the door to family-sustaining, high-paying jobs, with salaries that can top $120,000 a year, for the hundreds of applicants who are rejected or dissuaded from applying each year to the state’s open employment opportunities due to educational requirements.

Murphy said the order will enable New Jersey to join a number of other states that already have done this, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Colorado, North Carolina and Utah.

The announcement, which Murphy said tears down what some call the “Paper Ceiling,” led to a number of notable quotes from Murphy, including:

  • “(The) skills and experience gained through prior employment are just as important, if not in many cases more important, than holding a specific degree;
  • “It is past time that we stop looking at a college degree as the only arbiter of success and look at the entire person — what they can offer, their lived experiences, the skills they’ve gained, not just in a classroom but in a workplace.”

Murphy noted that the order does not mean all jobs are open to everyone.

“To be sure, there are jobs within the state workforce which will continue to require a degree,” he said. “For instance, a law degree is still going to be required to be a deputy attorney general. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be opportunities to assist that deputy attorney general in a position that helps ensure that our justice system works.”

And that can lead to more, Murphy said.

“It doesn’t mean that the person in that position won’t have the opportunity to go on and get a degree, or even go on to pursue a law degree,” he said. “So, this is about more than just opening doors. It is also about allowing folks to put their foot in the next door.”

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo praised the order.

“With today’s action, Gov. Murphy continues to demonstrate that New Jersey is a model employer that emphasizes skills-based training, responds to emerging labor market challenges and makes lasting investments in its workforce,” he said. “This forward-thinking executive order creates more opportunities for public work and strengthens the state’s hand in attracting the most qualified applicants to open positions.”

Auguste said he hopes more private-sector employers will follow suit.

It’s where their next hires are, he said.

“Nearly 2 million New Jerseyans in the labor market today are STARS — they’re skilled through alternative routes, rather than through a bachelor’s degree,” he said.

Auguste affirmed the idea that college is a good thing — just not the only thing.

“It’s not an either/or,” he said. “New Jersey is rightly proud of its excellent universities. And college can be and should be a bridge to opportunity. College should not be a drawbridge, pulling up and shutting out anyone who doesn’t get across.”

Soon, that no longer will be the case.