Why a County Eliminated Degree Requirements for 82 Types of Jobs

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The change will affect the hiring criteria for jobs ranging from budget analysts to parks managers.

Applicants for about 80 different types of local government jobs with Boulder County, Colorado will no longer have to meet higher education degree requirements that were previously in place.

Human resources director, Julia Yager, says equity and inclusion is a priority for the county when it comes to hiring and its workforce. It’s that reason—not difficulties recruiting for hard to fill jobs—that motivated the policy change, which was announced late last month.

“I think even if we have a position that we get plenty of applicants for, but previously required a degree, we’re still missing out on a portion of the population that might be ideal for that particular position, and has great job skills and experience,” she told Route Fifty this week.

Boulder County is located northwest of Denver, along Colorado’s Front Range. The county has about 326,000 residents and the equivalent of roughly 2,000 full-time employees spread across fields such as law enforcement, public health, custodial services, and road maintenance.

Yager says employee turnover is up in recent years, but still not especially high, and that the county generally hires around a dozen people per month.

Budget analysts, database administrators, parks managers, and geographic information system specialists, are among the 82 job classifications freed from degree requirements.

This change did not require the county commission to approve legislation. But it did have the endorsement of at least one commissioner, Deb Gardner, who in a statement called it an “important step to take in today’s competitive job market to help our departments attract larger pools of qualified candidates."

Yager said she and others had previously noticed county employees and job applicants with solid skills who lacked degrees.

A couple of years ago, she said, she began thinking about whether all of Boulder County’s higher education requirements made sense and her department began to review job positions through that lens. “We really did examine each one in depth,” she said.

The change in the requirements isn’t meant to lower hiring standards, as applicants would still need to prove that they’re qualified and compete against others who are college graduates.

But Yager says she’s a firm believer in the idea people can learn skills on the job and build on past experience. She says that, for her, finding job candidates with values that align with those the county prizes is something that can outshine other credentials they might have.

Along with inclusion, some of those values she said, are: taking calculated risks, focusing on sustainability, solutions and customer service, and finding ways to have fun in the workplace.

“If somebody comes to an interview and they’re able to express those values in some form or fashion, then I’m immediately intrigued and interested in that applicant,” Yager said.

For now, it’s still too early for the county to gauge how the change in hiring criteria is affecting its job applicant pool. But going forward there are plans to keep track of how many people without degrees are applying, interviewing for, or getting hired for the affected positions.

And while there’s no guarantee applicants without college degrees will get these jobs, “at a minimum,” Yager says, “they’re getting access.”

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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