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Rubio Introduces Bill to Remove Traditional Education Bias and Expand Skills-Based Hiring of Federal Employees

Jun 28, 2021 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Federal Skills Act to remove traditional education bias within federal hiring practices and expand federal workforce opportunities to qualified Americans with alternative education credentials, relevant experience, or demonstrated abilities.

“For far too long we have often used a traditional four-year college degree as the main requirement to determine whether someone is qualified or not for a job,” Rubio said. “This education bias prevents the federal government from hiring otherwise qualified Americans, including those from low-income communities who cannot afford to attend a traditional university or who otherwise choose to attain an alternative education credential. This is a commonsense change that is already happening in the private sector and one we should make now at the federal level as well.”

Last year, Rubio applauded President Trump’s Executive Order mirroring his proposal to modernize the federal government’s hiring practices. Rubio has long supported non-traditional forms of education. In 2018, Rubio wrote an op-ed that argued that we “need a system that embraces the new ways people can learn and acquire skills without having to go the traditional four-year-college-degree track.” In February 2020, President Trump enacted Rubio’s bipartisan Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (S.153), which would assist veterans re-entering the workforce by removing barriers that prevent veterans from pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). 

A one-page summary of the Federal Skills Act is available here.

The bill would help address federal government hiring bias while increasing employment access by removing unnecessary educational requirements in competitive service positions and replacing them with methods to assess candidates in a manner that does not rely on educational attainment. This bill specifically:

  • Requires the Director of the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM), in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the head of each agency, to review and revise all job classification and qualification standards within the competitive service as necessary;
  • Removes education requirements from federal employment under the competitive service;
    • Sets an exemption for positions that legally require a minimum education requirement to perform the duties (doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.)
  • Requires position descriptions and job postings under the competitive service to be based on specific skills and competencies to perform the job;
  • Improves the use of skills-based assessments by requiring the OPM Director to work with each agency to ensure candidates are not solely assessed on their education to determine whether the candidate possess relevant knowledge, skills, competencies and abilities for the position;
  • Requires the head of each agency to develop and identify assessment practices that candidates must fulfill and that assessment practices must be evaluated continually for their effectiveness;
    • Agencies cannot rely solely on self-evaluations of the candidate
  • Does not limit the authority of agencies to fill their vacant positions; and
  • Does not eliminate or affect the student loan forgiveness or student loan cancellation options available to borrowers under federal law.