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AIM to Lead Effort on Skills-Based Hiring

Posted on February 5, 2024

The state’s largest business association announced today that it would assume a leadership role in helping Massachusetts employers hire people for many jobs based upon skills rather than academic credentials.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), which represents 3,400 companies from every sector of the Bay State economy, will work with employers to implement skills-based hiring to break the ‘paper ceiling’ and attract new, talented people into the workforce. AIM’s HR Solutions division will lead an initiative to train human resource professionals to establish practices that eliminate unnecessary education requirements for many jobs.

The project comes as Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey announced at the AIM Executive Forum in January that she had signed an executive order instituting skills-based hiring practices for the state workforce. Healey estimated that 93 percent of state jobs contained unnecessary credential requirements.

The governor also challenged the private sector to review job requirements that have kept thousands of people without degrees out of the workforce at a time of critical labor shortages.

“Challenge accepted,” said Brooke Thomson, President of AIM.

“We celebrate the fact that Massachusetts has the best higher education system on the planet, but we also must create opportunities for that half of the population who have tremendous skills and the potential to contribute to the economic future of the Commonwealth. AIM commends the Healey-Driscoll Administration for leading by example on this issue and our association stands ready to make skills-based hiring and retention common practice throughout Massachusetts.”

In announcing the executive order for state jobs, Governor Healey said: “Skills-based hiring is vital for creating a vibrant equitable workforce we need as a Commonwealth to deliver valuable services and programs for residents, businesses, and communities every day. We know many employers are exploring new ways to meet the demand for skilled talent, and we hope other employers follow our lead in examining and eliminating these types of barriers to employment.”

Many prominent Massachusetts employers, including Dell Technologies, Accenture, IBM, and Amazon, have already embraced the trend toward skills-based hiring. Candidates who are self-taught or who gained their skills through experience are becoming a major force in the labor market: in the US alone, 70 million people can be categorized as “STARs”—workers without bachelor’s degrees who are “skilled through alternative routes.”

A 2023 report from The Boston Consulting Group found that the percentage of postings for traditionally college-level jobs in the United States that required a bachelor’s degree or more fell from 82.5% in 2017 to 79.3% in 2022. The report found the need for degrees decreasing in fields such as information technology, community and social services (counselors and case workers), health care (support roles, such as lab technicians, hospital staff, and medical practice managers), and hospitality, food, and tourism (event planners and entertainment managers).

Degree requirements are accelerating in areas such as engineering.

“A person’s educational credentials are not the only indicators of success, so we work with employers on an approach to hiring that focuses on skills, experiences, and potential. The approach involves updating job descriptions, expanding recruitment efforts, and developing compensation plans that reward all types of experience,” said Kyle Pardo, Executive Vice President and head of AIM HR Solutions.