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Connecting State Agencies and License Holders: The Potential of Licensing Portability Technologies

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Moving is one of life’s most stressful experiences. After the exhausting process of packing belongings into cardboard boxes and moving trucks comes the daunting task of rebuilding from the ground up: seeking out new doctors, finding a new community of friends, and even identifying places of work. The last part, finding new career opportunities, is incredibly challenging for individuals who hold professional or occupational licenses.

Professional and occupational licenses for different careers are handled at the state level, meaning licensing requirements vary from state to state. California may have different requirements for a plumbing license than the state of Michigan, and so on. So what occurs when nearly 25% of Americans holding professional licenses relocate across state borders? They encounter obstacles in finding the correct information to gain licensure in their new states. Let's begin by exploring the perspective of occupational license holders when moving across states.

Systemic Licensing Barriers Shackling Americans to States 

Individuals who carry licenses in plumbing, cosmetology, teaching, nursing, practicing law, and more have invested considerable time in earning them. These professional licenses require extensive hours of training in programs. As they move across state lines, these individuals must spend even more effort—on top of the standard moving woes—investigating the new requirements to acquire a professional license in their field. Finding this information brings additional barriers: they must search through lengthy government website forms, undergo long wait times on the phone to talk to state board officials or wait for state boards to mail their documentation, which can take weeks at a time. In short, finding the new requirements for an occupational license in another state is cumbersome and lengthy.

Even when individuals identify the form or process to gain their new license in their new state, they still face roadblocks in swiftly reentering employment. Consider a real-life example of a first-year plumbing apprentice in Michigan who recently completed his program after obtaining his GED in high school.  He’s dedicated countless hours to training for his graduation from the apprenticeship program—to be precise, a five-year apprenticeship comprising 10,000 hours of hands-on training and related classroom training. He stores his earned credentials in online PDFs or paper time sheets. Let’s say he experiences a life event, like a sick relative in another state, which requires him to pack his bags and head to California. Though he’s spent time earning his license, he may have lost some of his documents showing his earned credentials or the program he got the apprenticeship license from may no longer exist. These issues arise when verifying or transferring credentials from Michigan to California. 

Another crucial point is that the additional time and stress of finding new employment opportunities also means time spent without income for our plumber. The gap in employment is particularly destabilizing for him when facing the already increased expenses due to relocation, such as moving supplies, services, insurance, etc. These systemic issues shackle individuals like our plumber to the limits of geographic immobility, making it harder to progress through their life and career journey.

Removing Barriers Requires Verifiable Digital Licensing  

The good news is that technologies, such as digital licensing, help fill the gaps in this complex issue for license holders and state governments. The technology acts as a vessel on a mobile app or website where licensees can store their digital, verifiable credentials and easily share them with others. If our plumber used digital licensing, he could use the solution to reduce new licenses and renewal wait times from weeks to one day.  With the platform, licensing boards and state governments also decrease administrative burdens. Licensing boards can revoke or update licenses in real-time when rolling out and measuring new policies. Another tangible benefit is that digital licensing technologies layer onto licensing boards' existing processes, so no system overhauls are needed.

This innovation brings a world of opportunities for licensees. By simplifying the sharing of credentials, license holders can quickly transfer their chosen credentials to any employer, program, agency, and more. This streamlines the use of professional and occupational licenses on a large scale. Instead of state licensing boards spending weeks manually verifying credentials, the platform automatically shares and confirms licensee information and status. Additionally, state governments can utilize this technology to address discrepancies in professional license requirements across states. State departments can also market opportunities on the platform and raise awareness for licensees to view additional training to renew their licenses, enhancing individuals' skill sets and empowerment. Ultimately, digital licensing can significantly simplify processes for licensees and state departments. The solution can benefit communities facing systemic barriers to re-entering the workforce, such as military veterans and spouses.

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