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New Ways We Are Increasing Opportunities, Removing Job Licensing Barriers

March 12, 2019 11:00 AM

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I am pleased to serve on Governor Wolf's new Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. The command center expands collaboration between government and the private sector to solve Pennsylvania's workforce shortage and skills gap.

One of our first tasks is to identify barriers that impede hardworking Pennsylvanians from getting good jobs that support their families. These include burdensome professional licensing and continuing education requirements.

Pennsylvania's 29 professional boards license and certify approximately 1 million workers in hundreds of occupations, from accountants to veterinary technicians.

The Department of State's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) administers and enforces licensing laws and regulations.

New Process for Licensure Applicants with Criminal Histories

The department has already begun licensing reform efforts proposed by the governor last year.

We've restructured and standardized the way licensing boards and commissions review criminal history convictions and given them more discretion and tools. They can issue a full license or probationary license, or they can provisionally deny a license but offer the applicant the opportunity for a hearing.

Some criminal convictions may be grounds for a provisional denial of a license. But just because grounds exist for a provisional denial does not mean an applicant automatically will be denied licensure.

Applicants with a criminal history may be invited to appear at an informal conference with the board's application committee to discuss their situation.

This interview can occur in person or via video conference, which is especially useful for applicants who are receiving occupational training while still incarcerated.

We know the likelihood of recidivism is greatly reduced when former offenders can find gainful employment.

Removing barriers to employment for those who have paid their debt to society and encouraging them to get jobs will reduce crime and make our communities safer. 

Applicants with prior criminal histories can now feel confident that their previous convictions will not automatically bar them from licensure and a rewarding career. 


Gov. Wolf is committed to working with the legislature to pursue other changes that will make getting a job in Pennsylvania easier.

He has recommended repealing licenses for auctioneers, barbers, natural hair braiders and 10 other occupations and replacing them with less restrictive requirements.

Another critical area of future reform will involve improving license portability from other states, especially for spouses of military personnel who relocate to Pennsylvania.

Federal Grant Will Enable Further Reform

In 2018, our efforts were augmented by a U.S. Department of Labor grant.

The department received a three-year State Occupational Licensing Review and Reform grant, following the work we did in response to Governor Wolf's Executive Order 2017-03 to evaluate reform opportunities in professional licensing.

The grant will enable us to further reduce excessive licensing requirements and explore alternative approaches, such as professional certification, that still safeguard public health and safety.

And now we have the command center as another resource to connect skilled workers with good jobs in Pennsylvania.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on the command center and reporting back to you on our progress.

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