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EDITORIAL: Trump executive order prioritizes jobs skills over having a degree

Having the skills to do a job is more important than any piece of paper. Thanks to President Donald Trump, federal agencies will now be hiring based on that criterion.

In June, Mr. Trump signed an executive order revamping federal hiring procedures. Previously, some federal jobs required a certain level of education, even when that wasn’t relevant to an applicant’s job skills. The new order requires federal agencies to remove minimum education requirements unless such mandates are “legally required to perform the duties” by state or local government. Government agencies can still consider education attainment, but only if it contributes “directly” to the duties of the position.

This change ensures “that the individuals most capable of performing the roles and responsibilities required of a specific position are those hired for that position,” Mr. Trump’s executive order reads. “That is more in line with the principles on which the merit system rests.”

This isn’t a new idea. Many private-sector businesses have been doing this for years. There’s good reason for that. Customers don’t pay for a product based on the qualifications of the people making it. They pay for quality. Businesses have a financial incentive to find the best employees. Many have come to realize that a generic four-year degree is less valuable in certain roles than technical training or hands-on experience. This is especially true for many roles relating to technology.

By adopting similar hiring criteria, the federal government will give itself access to a better pool of candidates. This should produce a more competent and efficient workforce.

It’s also a win for potential employees. For decades, the cost of higher education has been skyrocketing. There are many reasons for this, including the federal government’s involvement in student loans. Demand has stayed high because many employers have put a premium on the value of a college diploma. Part of this is that high-paying careers, such as medicine or the legal profession, require a four-year degree and more. Another aspect is the legacy of many employers, such as the federal government, requiring applicants have a four-year degree to even be considered for a job.

The rise of technical certifications and internet learning has changed this dynamic. In many cases, having a four-year degree may no longer be the best indicator of someone’s ability to perform, even for a job requiring technical or specialty skills. This move will also help many future federal employees avoid the crushing levels of debt that often accompany a four-year degree these days.

Skills, not degrees, are what matter. Mr. Trump should be applauded for this positive reform.

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