COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Engineers, teachers, and others moving into Ohio may find it easier to get licensed to work later this year.

Starting in the spring, Senate Bill 131 — signed into law last month by Gov. Mike DeWine — will require occupational licensing agencies to issue certification to out-of-state applicants who are already approved to work in their current home state, at least in most circumstances.

“What this bill is trying to do is to reduce barriers to entry for people who are wanting to come to Ohio, so we want to make Ohio a friendly state,” said Greg Lawson, a research fellow at right-leaning think tank The Buckeye Institute, which offered proponent testimony on the bill during public debate in 2022.

Licensure is more popular now than it was historically

Whether it’s as an auctioneer or an engineer or a funeral service director or a teacher, many professions cannot be practiced without licensure, which is sometimes accompanied by exams or renewal fees. 

Government-regulated occupational licensing has risen over the last 60 years, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures database — the number of jobs requiring certification to work grew from around 5% then to loosely 25% as of August. Many licensure conditions vary substantially from one state to another.

To aim to level those differences, 18 states in the last five years have put universal recognition programs into place, according to The Buckeye Institute. Arizona was the first to do so, and is a “gold standard,” Lawson said. Ohio will become the 19th. 

“You may end up getting stuck in a situation where somebody would come to Ohio, and then have to wait out these additional requirements, despite the fact they’d already been working and were in good standing in another state, potentially for several years,” he said. 

Before the bill’s passage, Ohio entered into a number of reciprocal agreements with other states for some professions. As of this month, nurses in Ohio could practice in 37 other states through the Nurse Licensure Compact, which the state joined via legislation ratified in July. 

Could this change draw more people into Ohio?

Most of any population growth happening in Ohio is happening in its center. Cities, towns, and villages that surround central Ohio are shrinking, according to a Greater Ohio Policy Center study released in November 2022

And even in central Ohio, local leaders are faced with conversations about how to build and sustain a workforce that the Intel semiconductor fabrication plants, under construction in New Albany, and other major projects need. 

While projects like Intel’s could benefit from SB131 in the future, Lawson said he sees more growth opportunities in small and medium-sized businesses with associated licensing. 

John Greenhalge, the executive director of the Ohio Board of Engineers and Surveyors, said he does not see it drastically altering the population of engineers in Ohio. The board was a proponent of the bill because it promotes licensure generally.

Greenhalge, however, said he does not believe it will change the process for his agency.

“I don’t think it is going to dramatically change what we do because, in engineering and surveying nationally, we all follow a national model,” Greenhalge said. 

The provisions within SB 131 take effect April 3.