Credential Currency: How States Can Identify and Promote Credentials of Value

By the Education Strategy Group, Advance CTE, and the Council of Chief State School Officers Published September 2018 in Education Strategy Group Subscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

“Credential Currency: How States Can Identify and Promote Credentials of Value” is a must-read report if you’d like to get a big picture view of the world of credentials. I strongly suggest you read it in its entirety, but as a preview and in the spirit of saving time, we provide the following synopsis.

The report begins by stating that while credential-driven labor markets typically seek out employees with four-year degrees, there are 30 million jobs held by individuals who have earned less than a bachelor’s degree and more than a high school diploma, identified as a substantial “middle” that embodies opportunities for growth. Additionally, it’s noted that 28% of two-year degree earners, as well as others with only a one-year certificate, often earn more than four-year degree holders.

What States Need to Do
States recognize this and have acknowledged that “earning an industry credential while in high school can pay dividends for a student’s long-term prospects.” And states need to more clearly identify industry-recognized credentials that are valuable enough to bring a return on investment for credential earners. So, “this report provides recommendations to states for identifying credentials of value and increasing the number of students who attain them.” Best practices are identified along with national initiatives that can quicken this kind of work.

Some points of interest in this report that stood out for me were:

  • States need to “identify which industry-recognized credentials count for credit toward postsecondary education training.”
  • States need to “build a cross-sector priority industry-recognized credential list spanning the education and workforce systems that is backed by labor-market data and has demonstrated postsecondary value.”
  • Sates need to “put in place high-quality mechanisms to collect and report how many and which students successfully take and pass credentialing exams and earn specific industry-recognized credentials.”

Incentivizing Students and Building Lists
So, how can states meet such needs? As noted in the report, “states should encourage and empower leaders across agencies to collaborate on labor market and employer signaling analysis and collectively create priority credential lists that can then be used across sectors to scale and align their programs.” Such lists will also need to be consistently updated and validated.

Other parts of the report addressed how states can incentivize and motivate students to earn high-value credentials. The report points to how several states have been strategizing to achieve such worthy goals.

In Florida, the state legislator mandates that school districts inform students and their parents about ROI related to industry-recognized credentials, including estimated cost savings gained when earning such credentials in high school as opposed to post high school.

In Tennessee, funds from the Perkins Reserve Grant are utilized by school districts to pay for industry-recognized exams and for backing school-based credential testing sites.

In Ohio and Louisiana, some high-value industry-recognized credentials count toward high school graduation requirements.

One Step Further
Credential Engine is a highly relevant credential initiative, on a national scale, that is highlighted in the report. “The goal of Credential Engine is to provide transparent information to employers about the skills and competencies that can be expected of credential holders and to students about the value of credentials in the labor market and their availability nationwide.”

Finally, there are many more highly informative suggestions for meeting the goals outlined in this very well-written report that were not covered in this synthesis. Our goal was to present a brief sketch to at least give you a modicum of understanding of the complex world of credentials.