Op-ed: A False Solution for Our Workforce Challenges
Workforce shortages, talent pipelines at a trickle and expensive labor are all-too-familiar challenges facing businesses and the public sector. In an attempt to tackle these problems, there is a growing trend of exploring the weakening or elimination of certain key job requirements. These proposals include getting rid of college degree requirements without equivalency alternatives, doing away with requisite testing, and downgrading credentials and licensure for professionals.
To be sure, there are some elements of the occupational licensure process that require continuous improvement and elimination of impediments disparately impacting underrepresented groups. However, in the rush to address workforce challenges, legislators and other policymakers must be cautious not to create new problems that leave employers and the public at risk.
Weakening professional licensing requirements is a false solution to various workforce ills. Minimum qualifications ensured by licensing exist to protect employers and the public they serve. This is particularly important for technical professions with high public impact, such as architecture, certified public accountancy, engineering, landscape architecture and land surveying. Care must be taken to ensure that critical licensing systems for such professions, designed to ensure public and economic protection, are not compromised and swept up in broad-brush calls for occupational licensing reform.
It is not just the public that depends on the qualifications assured by licensing; businesses do too, both as employers and recipients of services. Arguments to eliminate or weaken licensing often assume that it is a solution that benefits businesses. However, the reality is much more complicated. Proposals to weaken or do away with professional licensing can create new problems by eliminating critical systems and safeguards that help businesses succeed, with ramifications for financial support, insurance costs and consumer confidence.
A recent study conducted on behalf of the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing found that businesses unequivocally value licensing and the trust in qualifications that it conveys, even in today’s challenging labor environment. A significant percentage of businesses rely on licensing to make informed hiring choices, and absent licensing they would have less confidence in the competence of professionals. Fully 92 percent of businesses agreed that licensing plays a crucial role in accurately assessing qualifications and making confident hiring decisions; 85 percent said they would have less confidence in the competence of professionals if licensing were downgraded.
The importance of licensing goes beyond helping employers hire with confidence; it is intertwined with the overall success of businesses. Eliminating or weakening licensing for high-impact, high-consequence professions can have far-reaching unintended consequences. Employers understand and are rightly concerned about the risks associated with such a move. These risks include a potential decline in the quality of services, increased liability and reputational damage.
In the rush to address workforce challenges and assess the role of government and regulation in today’s society, it is crucial that lawmakers carefully consider the potential impact of anti-licensing proposals. While it may be tempting to eliminate or weaken licensing requirements, it is important to recognize the value they bring to both the public and businesses. Instead of creating new problems, we challenge policymakers to endorse innovative solutions that better address workforce shortages while maintaining the necessary safeguards provided by professional licensing. This is the art of governing.
Michael Armstrong is the chief executive officer of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Marta Zaniewski is executive director of the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing and vice president for state regulatory and legislative affairs at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Op-ed published in Governing.com:read more
Podcast: Why Contractors Should Care About Licensing
Michael J. Armstrong, CEO of NCARB, joins the Art of Construction podcast: Why Contractors Should Care About Licensing.
Listen as Michael explains why contractors should care about the licensing of the architects and engineers they work with, the unintended consequences for the construction industry if architects’ license was weakened or eliminated, the relationship between licensing and winning projects, securing loans, and affording liability insurance, and how contractors and affiliates can join ARPL’s fight for Responsible Professional Licensing.read more
Op-ed: The Case for Responsible Professional Licensing
Let’s start by saying the quiet part out loud: There are differences between us. We represent different political parties in the Illinois House of Representatives. We live in different parts of our state. But in these polarized times, we think it is important to look deeper and notice our similarities.
As legislators, we both seek to create new opportunities for hard-working families and help the Land of Lincoln get ahead. And as two certified public accountants, we know our profession plays a vital role in upholding the integrity of our country’s financial system. This is why we both believe that rigorous licensing for professions with high public impact like ours is critical to the public’s physical and financial well-being.
Across the country, lawmakers are looking for ways to boost state economies and ease the pressures of inflation. Overly broad licensing “reform” has emerged as a popular proposal, with special-interest groups casting it as a silver bullet to solve statewide workforce and economic development challenges. These bills aim to weaken, and sometimes outright eliminate, licensing requirements across state lines. Some of these lowlights would make it possible for almost anyone to enter into a state practice, regardless of whether they meet minimum professional qualifications. Other proposals relating to licensing include so-called “consumer beware” bills that would leave costly litigation and bad customer reviews as the only options for redress after harm has occurred.
These misguided proposals jeopardize the public and disadvantage hardworking professionals, especially those who have served the public well for decades and whose qualifications will be effectively nullified if passed into law. There is a much better way to approach licensing reform.
Through our work in the Illinois General Assembly, we have played a role in crafting and passing licensing reform. Licensure is complex, and if led down the wrong path, even well-intended elected officials can cause more harm than good. Poorly conceived licensing bills threaten existing systems that work and serve the public and the business community well.
The truth is that many licensure models already address the most common concerns around licensure, including mobility, minimum qualifications, examination and military spousal relocation. Like other states, Illinois has embarked on a heightened review of occupational and professional licensing. As is often the case with complex legislation, the devil lives in the details — or lack thereof.
Unlike some proposals under consideration in our region of the country, Illinois’ laws do not diminish rigorous qualifications for highly complex, technical professions such as certified public accounting, engineering, architecture, surveying and landscape architecture.
In one extreme case, another state’s proposed law would have eliminated the ability to change examination requirements to reflect changes in codes, standards and the evolution of the profession. Other proposals would damage existing models that have served residents of those states well.
Fortunately, Illinois chose a different route. Our laws carefully identified and lowered barriers in licensing systems for specific occupations that could either prevent or make it difficult for re-entry and low-wage workers.
In 2021, for example, we both voted in favor of H.B. 5576, a “sunset review” bill enacted to require Illinois to collect data on all licensed professions and occupations and determine whether those requirements should be modified. It should be viewed as a framework for the nation on how state policymakers can eschew burdensome legislation to introduce balanced, rational and methodical approaches to reform the regulatory process.
Bills such as H.B. 5576 do not diminish the need for occupational and professional licensing, but they do relay a clear statement that a broad-brush, one-size-fits-all approach to reform is not in the best interest of the public or licensed professionals.
Unfortunately, we must acknowledge the trend of other states that are heading down the wrong path and avoiding common-sense solutions. We caution lawmakers to not rush down a path, paved by hardliners whose flawed proposals create new problems for constituents and do not take into account the public perception of licensure as necessary and beneficial. Public opinion data shows us that voters, regardless of gender, race, income or job role, recognize the value of uniform licensing requirements for professions like ours with high public impact.
Constituents are best served through smart policy that leads to meaningful improvements in licensing systems that benefit licensed professionals and the public we all serve. Despite our differences, we are united to convey how important it is for lawmakers to get licensing reform right and look toward proven models that have served the public well.
Amy Elik is a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Natalie Manley is a Democratic member of the Illinois House. Both are certified public accountants.
Op-ed published in Governing.com:read more
Op-ed: The Dangerous Push to Downgrade Professional Licensing
It is disappointing but not surprising that a small but vocal group of hardliners, backed by wealthy and powerful special interests, is trying to convince state lawmakers that the silver bullet for these challenges is to downgrade professional licensing across the board.
To hear them tell it, these proposals would eliminate barriers to entry into the workforce and provide an economic boon to workers, especially women and people of color. However, their pitch crumbles upon contact with reality — notably the latest economic research on the subject.
Case in point: The Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing, for which I serve as executive director, partnered with an internationally recognized research firm, Oxford Economics, to analyze all professions and occupations in the U.S. and found that licensing is associated with 6.5 percent higher wages on average.
The report also found that women and minorities in job fields requiring advanced education and training (architects, CPAs, engineers, landscape architects and surveyors, among others) benefit significantly from licensing. For these workers, the results show that a license narrows the gender-driven wage gap by about one-third and the race-driven wage gap by about half.
The report makes clear that licensing impacts professions, occupations and populations differently and is a clear driver of higher wages and stronger economies. It lays out a bevy of red flags to lawmakers and policy-setters who are considering overbroad legislation to roll back their state licensing programs.
The anti-licensing crowd consistently fails to make the critical distinction between occupational licensing and professional licensing. Occupations are significantly different from professions with high public impact such as architects, CPAs, engineers, landscape architects and surveyors. As such, the licensing systems governing professions are more rigorous and should not be diluted in the name of “reform.” One size does not fit all. It is this persistent failure to tell unlike things apart that ends up harming the very people the proposals purport to help.
If anti-licensing measures eliminate a pathway for success and a more even playing field, surely there must be some good these measures deliver? Unfortunately, no. The same proposals that would take away a powerful equalizer for opportunity and earning also put consumers and the public at risk.
It is no accident that during their most recent legislative session, West Virginia lawmakers rejected a so-called “universal licensing” bill after outcry from their constituents about its deleterious consequences. The defeat of this bill marks the third time in three years that Mountain State lawmakers have rejected this type of anti-licensing proposal. In recent years, lawmakers from Wisconsin to Arizona have also flirted with the idea of weakening or eliminating professional licensing, only to pull back such proposals when they realized the tremendous risk they would pose to their constituents.
Most Americans recognize the critical role that licensing and licensing boards play in protecting the public. A 2020 survey conducted by Benenson Strategy Group found that 75 percent of voters believe that it is important to ensure qualifications for professionals in certain industries. A majority of voters believes that current professional licensing requirements protect the public and should not be reformed, and more than 70 percent believe that it’s important to regulate professionals in accounting, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture and related fields with high impact on the public’s health, safety and welfare.
This public sentiment is why so many lawmakers are rightly wary of the anti-licensing proposals being floated in their statehouses. Time and again we have seen that such a broad-brush policy not only does not work but actually harms the people it claims to help: working professionals and the public at large.
Marta Zaniewski is executive director of the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing and vice president for state regulatory and legislative affairs at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Op-ed published in Governing.com:read more
Op-ed: Meadows, Proctor: Smart licensing will protect infrastructure in West Virginia
As West Virginia prepares to spend billions of dollars in new federal infrastructure funds, citizens of our state must have faith in the integrity of these new construction projects.
The best way to ensure this important public confidence is to make sure the people behind the projects have rigorous training and qualifications.
The truth is, strong, responsible licensing requirements for civil engineers, architects, and others who will be tasked with designing and constructing our state’s infrastructure is central to ensuring the protection of West Virginians. Also critical to the effort will be licensed, professional CPAs to help ensure this new money is being spent wisely, efficiently and for its intended purpose.
We recognize there is some debate in this area, but the fact remains that these professions are vital to the future of West Virginia.
The recent bridge collapse near Pittsburgh underscores the urgent need to shore up critical infrastructure with the skills and expertise of licensed professionals.
This need goes beyond just building new roads and bridges. It extends to upgrading and modernizing our existing roads and bridges to ensure they are safe.
The 2020 West Virginia Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our state’s roads and bridges a grade of “D+,” the second-to-lowest grade possible. They noted that, of the 7,291 bridges maintained by the West Virginia Division of Highways, 1,531 (or 21%) are structurally deficient.
The ASCE report also noted that West Virginia has the sixth-largest highway system in the United States with 38,000 miles of roadways — 88% of which are rural and 12% are urban. The state’s Division of Highways is one of only four in the nation responsible for maintaining both state and county roads. Many of these roads, the report correctly notes, are over mountainous terrain, presenting unique maintenance and safety challenges related to geography.
Given the scope and complexity of these challenges, it is more important than ever to make sure the professionals who will be charged with improving our infrastructure are qualified and experienced.
Yet, as we prepare for this undertaking, some in Charleston are entertaining proposals to weaken or eliminate licensure for the professionals that have rigorous education and experience requirements critical to our state’s physical and fiscal infrastructure.
If this all sounds familiar, it is because lawmakers flirted with the idea of downgrading professional licensing during the last two legislative sessions. Proposing broad-brush reforms and ignoring existing and nuanced professional licensing models.
In both sessions, these misguided, dangerous proposals were scrapped after public outcry reminded lawmakers that comprehensive licensing enjoys strong support among their constituents because we know it protects our health, safety and welfare.
Like clockwork, a small but loud group of out-of-state anti-licensing hardliners is back to try again. Our elected representatives should, once again, reject their proposals in the name of commonsense and public protection.
A better use of lawmakers’ time and energy would be to focus on ways to strengthen licensing so that the new federal infrastructure money can be put to the best use for the most people in our state. In this endeavor, they would be well-served to look to professional licensing models that have served the public well and consult with state licensing boards that have expertise in this area.
It is more important than ever that lawmakers be prudent and prioritize public protection by continuing to reject the anti-licensing proposals coming from a small, misguided chorus of hardliners.
Broad-brush proposals simply do not work. Smart, responsible professional licensing does.
David Meadows is a registered professional engineer and surveyor. He is also the West Virginia Region 4 governor for the American Society of Civil Engineers and the chief technical officer for Triad Engineering Inc.
Judy Proctor is a licensed CPA in West Virginia and the CEO of the West Virginia Society of CPAs.
Op-ed published in Charleston Gazette-Mail:read more
Op-ed: Downgrading licensing will weaken consumer protections
With the recent enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, engineers and surveyors will be called upon to work with similar professionals to improve the physical infrastructure in our country. They will work to improve the safety of the roads we drive, the bridges we cross, the water we drink, and countless other areas that impact our daily lives. The public can have confidence in the safety and integrity of the work engineers and surveyors will provide thanks to our current licensing system, which was first established in the U.S. more than 100 years ago. However, it is imperative that state lawmakers recognize the importance and value that the existing licensure requirements and processes provide in protecting the public.
With so many large and extraordinary projects on the horizon that will impact the health, safety, and welfare of the public, state lawmakers must resist calls to weaken or eliminate the consumer protections afforded by rigorous professional licensing standards.
In many states, lawmakers are proposing to downgrade licensing for professions with high public impact such as architects, CPAs, engineers, landscape architects and surveyors with the hope of boosting the economy. Lost in many of those proposals are the unintended consequences on the same consumers the anti-licensing movement purports to help.
In most cases, consumers can choose a service provider based on recommendations and decide whether to continue using them based on their level of satisfaction. However, in the case of some highly-technical professions, such as engineering and surveying, consumers do not get to choose who builds the bridges and roads they drive on every day. They must rely on lawmakers to ensure their safety through licensing standards that require engineers and surveyors to demonstrate a minimum level of competence through education, examinations, and experience.
The steady weakening — or in the most extreme cases, the proposed wholesale elimination — of licensure standards for engineers, surveyors, and other highly technical professions will put the public at an increased level of risk.
Since the first engineering and surveying licensure laws were established, lawmakers in every state have taken seriously their responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public in situations where the public is unable to do so for themselves. This commitment to public protection must continue.
Public protection will be impacted if the long-standing requirements for engineering and surveying licensure are swept-up and swept-out as part of broad-brush efforts to remove barriers to entry for some occupations.
Too often, licensing critics conflate occupations with professions to make their case. There is a critical difference between occupations and highly complex, technical professions that are responsible for the integrity of our physical and financial infrastructure.
Any attempt to change state licensing requirements should reflect this important distinction. Engineering and surveying rightly require necessary standards for education and experience and the ability to demonstrate a minimum level of competence through examinations. If any of what we call the “3 Es” — education, examinations, and experience — are downgraded in one or two states, the ripple effect throughout the country would have a devastating impact on consumer protection due to existing interstate cooperative licensing processes that allow engineers and surveyors to become quickly and easily licensed in additional states.
Consumers intuitively know that downgrading licensure requirements is an unreasonable and unacceptable risk. This instinct was reflected in a poll commissioned last year by the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) which found that 71 percent of voters believe professional licensing should be required unless it can be proven that eliminating licensing will not have a negative impact on public health and safety. The same poll also found that 67 percent of voters believe that consumers are best protected by a system that regulates education, examination, and experience standards — all of which are overseen by a state licensing board.
As Benjamin Franklin once observed, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to building our critical physical and financial infrastructure, responsible professional licensing overseen by state licensing boards is the best method of prevention.
State lawmakers, licensing boards, engineers, surveyors, and others practicing within other highly technical professions must never lose sight of their shared obligation to protect the public. And the best way to honor that commitment is to provide effective licensing models that are designed for public protection. Downgrading the long-standing licensure requirements for highly technical professions will ultimately cheapen our investment in infrastructure and our investment in the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
David Cox is the CEO of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
Op-ed published in The Hill:read more
Op-ed: The Problem With One-Size-Fits-All ‘Universal Licensing’
Making it easier for professionals to practice across state lines is appealing, but if it isn’t done right, it can endanger the public’s health and safety.
As states move toward reopening and more Americans are vaccinated, policymakers across the country are prioritizing a quick economic recovery. The latest trend among state lawmakers looking to solve economic challenges is occupational licensing reform, often in the form of so-called “universal licensing” — requiring states to grant a license to a license holder from any state across all occupations and professions.
But poorly conceived, one-size-fits-all licensing reform creates a new set of problems. Lawmakers are working against the interests of their constituents by scaling back regulations and established accountability models that have protected the public for decades.
Over the years, we have seen firsthand the consequences when necessary regulations and protective measures are deemed unnecessary due to political interests. That was evident most recently in Texas with the power crisis following February’s winter storms. Regulations were changed more than 20 years ago in favor of “consumer choice” and an open market.As a result, there was no agency enforcing accountability, such as updating energy resources for the state, and the public suffered when the system failed in the end. It was just the latest example of what can happen when you remove oversight in the name of low costs.
The goal of so-called universal licensing reform is certainly admirable: to make it easier for people to move with their careers. Of course people should be able to work where they want, but we must protect the public by ensuring that license holders, particularly in highly technical professions, are qualified wherever they practice.
Professions like architecture, certified public accounting, engineering, landscape architecture and surveying are responsible for the integrity of the nation’s buildings and other physical infrastructure, as well as its financial systems. Each profession requires rigorous and ongoing education, examination and experience.The key failing of these bills — and why universal licensing is set up to fail — is that they don’t consider how critical what’s known as “substantial equivalence” is to successful interstate practice. Substantial equivalence refers to the trust and confidence that the qualifications underlying one state’s license are on par with those of other states.
Without the trust and accountability of substantial equivalence, policymakers will create problems for consumers who will no longer have faith in the qualifications of professionals. What mistake will need to occur for us to look back and realize that reasonable regulation matters?
Some proponents of universal licensing reform point to doctors and other medical professionals being allowed to practice across state lines and mobilize where they have been most needed during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the interstate practice of medical professionals is actually an argument in favor of rigorous standards and substantial equivalency.
The reason states could trust that out-of-state doctors were qualified to help was because they had confidence in the strong underlying licensing requirements and the licensing systems that uphold them: substantial equivalence. In every state, medical professionals must meet stringent licensing standards. The country’s ability to respond to the crisis was made possible because of a strong licensing system — not in spite of it. If COVID-19 taught us anything about licensing, it’s that strong, consistent licensing standards are a critical foundation for professions entrusted to protect the public.
All of this only reinforces why a one-size-fits-all approach across hundreds, if not thousands, of occupations and professions doesn’t work. Reform must be carefully considered, with the recognition and understanding that broad-brush legislation is not the answer. Consumers have been well served by rigorous licensing systems, allowing us to have confidence that the professionals who are entrusted to design and build our roads, airports, bridges, buildings and financial systems are qualified to do so.
Every consumer deserves the same protections and access to high-quality services and high-caliber, licensed professionals. That’s why lawmakers must avoid these broad-brush measures and look to existing professional licensing models that have evolved and served the public well, in some cases for more than 100 years. These models allow for access to services without risking public safety, health and welfare.
Certainly, there are barriers to entry for some occupations that require the attention of lawmakers to attract new talent and expertise and spur economic recovery. But any licensing reform must be done thoughtfully and carefully, keeping in mind the public’s health, safety and welfare and the licensed professionals who have dedicated years to their field. Licensing done right works.
Marta Zaniewski is executive director of the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing and vice president for state regulatory and legislative affairs at the American Institute of CPAs.
Op-ed published in Governing:read more
Op-ed: Well-governed licensing protects West Virginia
A new report, from the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing and the international research firm Oxford Economics, found that licensing is associated with 6.5% higher wages, on average, for all professions and occupations in the United States.
Moreover, the research found that, for women and minorities in technical fields requiring significant education and training, a license narrows the gender-driven wage gap by about one-third and the race-driven wage gap by about half.
Female engineers, surveyors, architects, landscape architects and certified public accountants can expect a 6.1% hourly wage increase, on average, after becoming licensed in their field.
These findings should serve as a red flag to lawmakers who might be considering one-size-fits-all legislation in an attempt to roll back state licensing systems this session.
West Virginians are well served by rigorous licensing for engineers, surveyors, architects, CPAs and landscape architects, because it ensures they are held to the highest standards of professionalism. And West Virginians deserve the same consumer protection, high-quality services and caliber of professionals as other states.
Indeed, responsible licensure is a vital means to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare…
Op-ed: Occupational Licensing Reforms Must Maintain Standards to Protect the Public
As the United States works to reverse the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, state legislatures will once again consider occupational licensing reform as a way to jumpstart the economy and get Americans back to work.
However, there is no silver bullet to this complex set of challenges.
Lately, anti-licensing groups have set their sights on so-called “universal licensing” (proposals from lawmakers that aim to allow states to recognize professional licenses from other states) as a way of enabling people to have more flexibility to move their careers from state to state.
Most people agree professionals should be allowed to move across state lines and earn a living with the least cost and hassle possible. Likewise, most people want to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare by ensuring they are being served by qualified professionals who have the knowledge, skills and experience for the job. This is especially true in highly technical, high-impact professions that the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) represents like certified public accountants (CPAs), architects, engineers, surveyors and landscape architects…
Read the full op-ed in Route Fifty:read more
LTE: Be careful with broad-brush approach to occupational licensing reform
Point of View: Be Careful with broad-brush approach to occupational licensing reform
By: Tricia H. Hatley, President, National Society of Professional Engineers
“States need to cut licensing red tape permanently” (Point of View, Sept. 9) describes a push to weaken occupational licensing nationally. However, proponents failed to acknowledge the daily and invaluable contributions of licensed professionals to Oklahomans.
Efforts to weaken licensing, however well-intentioned, make no distinction for highly complex, technical professions. This is a critical distinction that broad-brush proposals like those referenced in the article fail to make — and puts thousands of lives at risk in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Professions like engineering, architecture, accounting, landscape architecture and surveying are responsible for the safety of our physical spaces and the integrity of our financial systems. Because of this, they are required to meet rigorous standards based on education, experience and examination to demonstrate a minimum qualification level.
These working Americans create and maintain our most vital and valuable infrastructure systems. Oklahomans expect their buildings to have been designed and built to code and that structures can withstand the severe environmental hazards facing our communities. They assume vehicles will be able to safely traverse our interstates with appropriately sized entrance and exit ramps and bridges that can carry heavy truck loads. And they presume that informed and qualified CPAs are overseeing their financials and ensuring fiscal compliance.
Rigorous professional licensing is what makes that trust possible.
Oklahomans are rightly skeptical of broad-brush proposals that would sweep up these professions and wrongfully accuse their licensing practices as dispensable and unnecessary. It is not hard to imagine the negative repercussions of dismantling carefully developed professional licensing systems that protect the public.