What would you do if it required thousands of hours of training and hands-on experience to obtain a government license to pursue your dream job? For many Americans, this is a reality. The system of occupational licensing keeps thousands of people across the U.S. out of the jobs they want and stifles entrepreneurship. In 2019, advocacy by Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, an Atlas Network partner, culminated in successful state-level reform that had an effect far beyond Arizona’s borders.
The Breaking Down Barriers to Work Initiative, Goldwater Institute’s reform campaign, focused on eliminating barriers to workers moving into Arizona for the first time. In this situation, licensing requirements often force a person to put their life on hold to obtain a state-specific license, regardless of whether or not they possessed one in the state they moved from. This project successfully encouraged state lawmakers to implement universal recognition, allowing those moving into the state to continue working with the license they already have. During the law’s first 18 months, over 3,000 qualified workers received license recognition.
Not content to contain their effort to Arizona alone, Goldwater Institute partnered with other state-based organizations to encourage the introduction of similar legislation in 24 other states. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, a total of 15 states have so far passed some form of occupational licensing recognition reform. These breakthroughs create opportunities for further reform, as was the case in Utah, where the legislature advanced two more improvements to the licensing system after passing the Breaking Down Barriers to Work legislation. The work of Goldwater Institute and the members of its coalition are changing the lives of thousands of Americans by removing barriers to dignity and prosperity.