SB2886 recognizes not all state jobs require a degree

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Labor and Technology and Government Operations committees on Feb. 15, 2024.

Feb. 15, 2024, 3:10 p.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 225 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Labor and Technology
      Sen. Henry Aquino, Chair
      Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, Vice Chair

      Senate Committee on Government Operations
      Sen. Angus McKelvey, Chair
      Sen. Mike Gabbard, Vice Chair

 From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Aloha Chairs Aquino and McKelvey, Vice-Chairs Moriwaki and Gabbard and members of the Committees,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for SB2886, which would prohibit a state agency from requiring a bachelor’s degree for any position unless “the knowledge, skills, or abilities required for the position … can only reasonably be obtained” through a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree is not necessary for many state jobs, even though it is often required. A degree may indicate a certain set of skills, but it is by no means the only indicator.

A study from the Burning Glass Institute and Harvard University researchers noted that  “when employers drop degrees, they become more specific about skills in job postings, spelling out the soft skills that may have been assumed to come with a college education, such as writing, communication and being detail-oriented.”[1]

Maryland, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alaska and many other states have all enacted policies aimed at removing arbitrary degree requirements for state jobs.[2] Hawaii should follow their lead.

For the record, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that only about a third of Hawaii residents age 25 or older have bachelor’s degrees.[3]

Similarly, the nonprofit Opportunity@Work reports that individuals who do not possess four-year bachelor degrees but who are “skilled through alternative routes” made up 59% of Hawaii’s workforce in 2019, compared to 53% of the workforce nationwide.[4]

Given this data, it is clear that this measure would broaden employment opportunities for local residents.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas

Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1] Joseph Fuller, Christina Langer, Julia Nitschke, Layla O’Kane, Matt Sigelman and Bledi Taska, “The Emerging Degree Reset: How the Shift to Skills-Based Hiring Holds the Keys to Growing the U.S. Workforce at a Time of Talent Shortage,” Burning Glass Institute, 2022, p. 3.
[2] Kathryn Moody, “Pennsylvania ends 4-year degree requirement for majority of state jobs,” HR Dive, Jan. 24, 2023; and Joey Klecka and Elena Symmes, “4-year degree no longer required for some state jobs,” Alaska’s New Source, Feb. 14, 2023.
[3]QuickFacts: Hawaii,” U.S. Census Bureau, accessed March 20, 2023.
[4] Communication with Ashley Edwards, Director for Data Services at Opportunity@Work, Aug. 17, 2022.


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