Utah’s systematic approach to occupational licensing reform: Ascend Radio
On this episode of the Ascend Radio podcast, Margaret Busse and Jeff Shumway join host Paul Leavoy to discuss Utah’s systematic approach to occupational licensing reform, the work of the state’s newly created Office of Professional Licensure Review, and much more.
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The extent of occupational licensing regulations can have a great impact on both the vitality of a state’s economy and its citizens’ quality of life, affecting everything from their access to certain services, the prices they pay for those services, and their ability to work in regulated occupations.

 

Although the exact number of licensed occupations varies by state, research has shown that close to a quarter of all U.S. professions require some kind of license today, a figure that has increased dramatically since the 1950s when it was estimated to be about 5%. 

 

With so many occupational regulations on the books, how can states ensure that they remain relevant to workforce and economic needs? And how can they make sure they strike the right balance in the licensing requirements for regulated occupations so they are strong enough to protect the public from harm but not so restrictive that citizens who wish to work in these fields face unnecessary barriers to entry? 

 

Utah professional licensing gets a surgical review

 

The State of Utah is taking an innovative approach to these tasks by being one of only a few states to establish an office dedicated to systematically reviewing all occupational licenses. In his first official action, Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order in January 2021 requiring the review of all regulated occupations and professions.

 

At the direction of the governor, Margaret Busse, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce – which issues licenses to professionals and enforces laws relating to licensure – worked with lawmakers to create SB 16, legislation that formed a new Office of Professional Licensure Review (OPLR) within the Department of Commerce to lead the review process.  

 

Officially launched in July 2022 under the leadership of Director Jeff Shumway, OPLR is tasked with reviewing the licensure requirements for all of Utah’s regulated occupations at least once every 10 years as well as reviewing applications to establish new regulated occupations. Using their backgrounds in public policy and analytics, Shumway and his team identify which occupations should be reviewed each year and provide the legislature with objective, data-driven recommendations on how licensure requirements can be improved, if necessary. As Utah – along with other states – is currently grappling with a shortage of mental health professionals that is impacting Utahns’ ability to access mental health treatment, OPLR prioritized licenses in regulated mental and behavioral health occupations as the first group to be reviewed. 

 

Busse and Shumway recently joined Ascend Radio host Paul Leavoy to discuss Utah’s systematic approach to occupational licensure review and the work of OPLR so far. Their conversation touches on:  

 

  • The unique features of occupational licensing in Utah. 
  • How OPLR uses analytics to prioritize high-impact professions for review.
  • The shortage of mental health professionals in Utah and how revising licensure requirements can bolster the workforce in these professions. 
  • The importance of stakeholder engagement throughout the review process and how broadening engagement can help overcome barriers to change. 
  • How technological changes can render regulations out of date. 
  • Measuring success, what’s next for OPLR, Busse and Shumway’s advice for other states looking to take a similar approach to occupational licensure review, and much more. 

 

To learn more about Utah’s innovative approach to occupational licensing reform, check out these resources: 

 

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On this episode of the Ascend Radio podcast, Margaret Busse and Jeff Shumway join host Paul Leavoy to discuss Utah’s systematic approach to occupational licensing reform, the work of the state’s newly created Office of Professional Licensure Review, and much more.
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