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South Carolina Considers Removing College Degree Requirements

State Sen. Tom Davis wants to eliminate college degree requirements for the majority of state-classified jobs, though no legislation has yet been proposed in the House and it’s unclear if such a bill would pass.

More people without college degrees could be hired for state government jobs in South Carolina if one lawmaker can convince the state to move away from what he says are “outdated” notions surrounding the need for higher education in today’s workforce.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R- Beaufort, who chairs the Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee, says he wants to eliminate college degree requirements for the majority of state-classified jobs — a move recently made by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who, on Tuesday, signed a bill into law that scraps the need for a college degree for nearly 90 percent of state jobs.

“I think, historically, our code (of laws) reflects a college-educated bias, and that simply doesn’t reflect the reality of today’s world,” Davis said. “In today’s society, a lot of the needs that we have in the workforce, whether it’s in regard to industry that’s coming here, or existing businesses that are here, I mean, they need highly skilled workers, laborers, you know, people that actually have a vocation and a trade.”

Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows South Carolina maintaining a strong and steady workforce with high rates of openings, hires and quits and low rates of layoffs across state-level jobs.

“People looking for a new job or considering entering the workforce have many opportunities available,” said Bryan Grady, assistant executive director for labor market information at the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, in a news release. “Conversely, we are diligently working with businesses across South Carolina to ensure that they have the workers they need to grow and prosper.”

In Virginia, beginning in July, the vast majority of state-classified jobs, which are salaried positions, will no longer require a college degree, following a growing trend among private-sector companies, who increasingly are looking at experience and skill rather than whether a job applicant attended college — including major tech companies such as Apple, Google and IBM.

“By giving equal consideration to applicants with an equivalent combination and level of training, knowledge, skills, certifications and experience we have opened a sea of opportunity at all levels of employment for industrious individuals who have the experience, training, knowledge, skills, abilities, and most importantly, the desire to serve the people of Virginia,” the state’s Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater said in a statement reported by The Hill.

While South Carolina’s Davis praised Youngkin for the move via Twitter earlier this week, Davis said he began working toward expanding employment opportunities for South Carolinians without college degrees a year ago.

Davis’s interest in reducing degree requirements for state jobs doesn’t necessarily mean the change will happen in South Carolina. So far, no bill to that effect has been introduced in the State House, and it’s not clear whether such a bill would even have support to pass. If it did, it could still take months or years for any hypothetical changes to take effect in the state.

Still, Davis’s proposal is of interest because it raises, for the first time in recent memory at least, the prospect of opening wider doors for South Carolinians without college degrees to land coveted state jobs.

Last year, “I became very educated and I did a deep dive in regard to what our workforce situation is like here in South Carolina, and we are we are desperate to fill these jobs openings,” Davis said.

As an alternative to a college education, Davis said he’s working to return to the idea of apprenticeship, adding that South Carolina needs to move away from the notion that you can only learn a profession or a trade if you go to school.

“I mean, I think getting a college degree is fine, and having a college degree for certain things is probably required,” Davis said. “But for a tremendous number of jobs and vast numbers of climate opportunities, it’s not required.”

©2023 The State. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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