Universal licensing in Nebraska would allow more skilled laborers to practice

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Nebraska is leading the way in occupational licensing reform, making it easier for skilled laborers to transfer businesses to the state.

“There’s a broad recognition that we have a somewhat arbitrary state-by-state system, where requirements for licensure vary greatly for the same job across state lines,” Dr. Laura Ebke, a senior fellow at the Platte Institute, told The Center Square. “Universal recognition would allow states, in our case Nebraska, to welcome already skilled workers to the state, without requiring them to jump through significant additional hoops.”

Barriers in about 10% of Nebraska’s licensed occupations have been reduced and committees have reviewed just over half of Nebraska’s licenses, looking for areas to reform.

While many are in favor of universal licensing, some trade unions and licensing boards have voiced opposition.

“As a general rule, the occupations represented in Nebraska seem to be content with the licensing structure that we’ve got here, and claim that we would be ‘watering down’ the quality of licenses if we let people practice in our state who have not been licensed according to our standards,” Ebke said. “Although electricians have been among the most vocal opponents to this bill, a look at requirements for apprenticeships and receipt of a journeyman’s card in that occupation are pretty consistent around the country.”

Universal licensing has gotten more support during the pandemic, one example being health care workers from other states being allowed to practice in most states no matter where their license was obtained. Legislative Bill 263 would put Nebraska on the same playing field as other states with universal licensing.

“Many of our occupations will support higher/stricter standards for licensure in our state, and making it more difficult for licensees in other states to come here, in the interest of ‘public safety,'” Ebke said. “Historically, occupations like cosmetologists and massage therapists in Nebraska have had high licensing standards compared to other states in our region and around the country.”

More skilled workers are needed in many of the trades, with the construction trades being some of the most needed. Finding replacements for those retiring has been difficult. Universal licensing would allow greater employment and industry growth, making the state a more appealing place to live and work, Ebke said.

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