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Navigating the Rise of Driver's License Requirements in Ramsey County's Workforce

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04 June 2024

Top 10 Trends to Watch in Ramsey County’s Workforce Landscape: Part Five

Minnesota employers continue to face a workforce shortage, totaling approximately 164,000 job openings in March 2024. Reducing hiring bottlenecks is imperative to help match eager job seekers with businesses in need of potential workers. In Ramsey County, one trend stands out prominently as an opportunity for the workforce landscape: the increasing demand for driver's licenses as a hiring credential across various job sectors. Facilitating driver’s license procurement is essential to developing a proficient and mobile workforce to foster business attraction and overall regional economic growth. This necessity is addressed in detail in the RealTime Talent report titled Top 10 Trends to Watch in Ramsey County’s Workforce Landscape.

Ticket to work

A driver’s license is a well-known symbol marking a step toward independence, responsibility and adulthood.  Yet, that license to drive is also becoming a ticket to work for many young people. Access to transportation serves as a significant determinant of social and economic opportunity. Additionally, a driver's license is often a prerequisite for numerous jobs that have the potential to lift individuals out of poverty, including roles in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, human services, and the automotive industry. 

According to recent data in the report, RealTime Talent indicates the volume of job postings in Ramsey County requiring a driver's license has risen 7%, and those requiring a CDL rose 31% since 2021. Those trends are significant, considering a 9% drop in all job posting volume in the same timeframe. Erin Olson, Senior Director of Strategic Research with RealTime Talent, underscores the critical need to ensure that these requirements do not become barriers to employment access.

"Driver's licenses are now a standard requirement for many jobs, particularly in industries such as transportation, delivery services and construction," says Olson. "However, it's essential to assess whether these requirements are truly necessary or if they inadvertently create barriers for certain populations and their ability to access a driver’s license."

Challenging factors

Several factors contribute to the challenges young people face in obtaining driver's licenses, including accessibility, cost, structure and racial disparities. Privatization of driver's education, illustrated by the fact that in 2019, only 15 percent of teenagers received driver's education at school compared to a 95 percent rate in the 1970s, has made an already challenging situation for young adults even more difficult. Other factors, such as access to a reliable vehicle for an on-road test, getting to Department of Public Safety offices, and the prohibitive cost of obtaining a license, pose significant obstacles. 

Driver’s License Academy

To address these challenges, Ramsey County has launched the Driver's License Academy, a workforce initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan Act in partnership with the City of Saint Paul. This initiative targets young workers aged 18-24, providing them with resources and support to obtain their driver's licenses at no cost. By focusing on career pathways that require driver's licenses as a work credential, the Academy aims to empower young job seekers and enhance their access to employment opportunities. That investment helps to cultivate a workforce better equipped to meet the demands of local employers and support initiatives for economic development.

"The Driver's License Academy represents a crucial step towards eliminating barriers and ensuring equitable access to employment," says Olson. "By offering comprehensive support, including knowledge test preparation, behind-the-wheel training, road test assistance and additional resources, we can level the playing field for all eligible participants. This is a win-win for the workforce and employers."

To date, the Academy has enrolled over 350 young adults with referrals from 67 different local education and employment providers. Over 60 young adults have obtained their driver's license, and many more have made progress toward the next step in obtaining one.

The academy's approach includes co-investment between Ramsey County and the City of Saint Paul, highlighting a collaborative effort to address workforce challenges and promote economic mobility. This joint commitment underscores the importance of community partnerships in driving positive change.

Commitment to solutions

The rising workforce needs in Ramsey County underscores the demand for proactive solutions to promote driver's license accessibility and equity. Initiatives like the Driver's License Academy and other related resources exemplify the county's commitment to fostering an inclusive and resilient workforce.  

The Top 10 Trends to Watch in Ramsey County’s Workforce Landscape from RealTime Talent is a compass, guiding Ramsey County through the complexities of a transforming workforce. The trends identified pave the way for a resilient, innovative and inclusive future. Each trend will be explored in-depth throughout 2024, charting the course for Ramsey County's workforce in the coming years.

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