SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Utah State Governor Spencer Cox launched a “skills-first” hiring initiative as part of an effort to increase job opportunities for qualified Utahns on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The initiative would eliminate the requirement for bachelor’s degrees in employee recruitment for many state government jobs. According to the Governor’s Office, the state executive branch has 1,080 different classified jobs. About 98% of those reportedly do not require a degree.

Instead of a degree, state hiring managers and committees are encouraged to consider related experiences as valuable as educational credits throughout the hiring process.

“Degrees have become a blanketed barrier-to-entry in too many jobs,” Gov. Cox said. “Instead of focusing on demonstrated competence, the focus too often has been on a piece of paper. We are changing that.”

Gov. Cox said by eliminating the bachelor’s degree requirement, job openings will have broadened access to qualified talent and wider opportunities for employment will attract more diverse candidates, including underrepresented groups.

The governor still affirmed his support for Utah’s colleges, universities and degree-seeking students, but emphasized a degree “should not be the only way to get a good paying job or have a fulfilling career.”

Gov. Cox emphasized similar support to remove degree requirements by local governments and private companies. Delta Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Joanne Smith, Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner David Woolstenhulme, and Utah Association of Counties CEO Brandy Grace all expressed their support for the initiative during a press conference on Tuesday.