Why do we make it hard to work in Mississippi?

By Aaron Rice
August 12, 2020

Wendy Swart has been a hairdresser for more than 30 years. So when she moved to Mississippi last year, she didn’t figure she would still be without a license – and without a job. 

Wendy’s story began last August when her husband, Scott, landed a job in Mississippi and was preparing to move. She immediately contacted the Board of Cosmetology and was initially told her transferring should not be an issue. She would be working soon. Or so she thought.

The Board said she did not have enough hours, though she holds a teachers license that put her over Mississippi requirements. Instead, she was told she would need to take new courses, which would take time, cost money, and not pertain to the profession according to Wendy. 

All to work in a profession that Wendy has devoted her career to. And never received an infraction, citation, or something similar.  

There is some type of limited licensing reciprocity for cosmetologists in Mississippi, but it’s not exactly clear. Instead, Boards are devoting unnecessary time trying to compare education or training requirements across 50 states. And, as Wendy’s story shows, it doesn’t help people work, which should be our goal when qualified individuals move to Mississippi. 

This is why Mississippi needs to follow the path of Arizona in adopting universal licensing for occupational licenses. In Arizona, over 1,100 individuals have applied for and been granted a license to work in fields ranging from cosmetology to engineering in just one year. 

Multiple bills were introduced this year to bring such a law to the Magnolia State. The premise is if you’ve received an occupational license in another state and have a clean record, you can start working almost immediately. It’s much needed, but all bills died in committee without consideration. While Mississippi punted, Montana, Pennsylvania, Utah, Idaho, Iowa, and Missouri all followed Arizona.

A similar bill exclusively for military families has been signed into law. It has the potential to benefit many but needs to be expanded.

It should not be this difficult for someone who has 30 years of experience and has never had a knock on her record to work in Mississippi. For a state that has been on the wrong side of domestic migration over the past half-decade and during a time of economic uncertainty, we should be welcoming new residents with open arms to the state. Instead, we are putting up roadblocks.


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