Solutions to Build a 21st Century Connected Credentialing System

By Kelsey Berkowitz – Published January 2020 in Third Way Subscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

As high-tech innovations across all industries dictate emerging skill-sets demanded by employers, a postsecondary credential system that can define such skills remains unclear and disunited.

Employers, unable to effectively evaluate credentials earned by job candidates, typically make hiring decisions based solely on a job candidate’s attainment of a four-year degree for positions that typically require a much shorter-term credential. Furthermore, demonstrable short-term credential records, such as course completions, work-experiences, certificates, badges, licenses, military training, etc. are stored within hard-to-access, dispersed institutional data bases, making it overly bureaucratic and costly for many job applicants to access and share a complete, verifiable history of their accumulated job skills. 

All this has brought about a need to develop a connected, centralized credentialing system that verifies and transparently defines in-demand competencies achieved by job candidates within a standard data infrastructure that is both accessible and comprehensible for individuals and employers. 

Recommendations for State and Federal Policymakers to Create an Effective Credentialing Infrastructure:
The creation of a system that provides a comprehensive, standards-based, verifiable view of a learner-owned credential record that can be shared with prospective employers is currently under development through a variety of innovative technologies/initiatives, including Comprehensive Learner Records, T3 Innovation Network Competency Data Infrastructure, and Credential Engine. Below are five recommendations for policymakers to support such a system. 

  1. “Develop a set of Connected Credentialing Principles and a new Credentialing Innovation Badge.”
    Modern record-keeping technology can facilitate efficient sharing of verifiable records and provide a more detailed summary of an individual’s job-skills. The U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, Commerce and Defense should bring together the technology innovators in this space, such as the T3 Innovation Network, the Job Data Exchange and Credential Engine, “to develop a list of guiding principles that institutions, employers, standards organizations, and technology vendors should follow as they develop a 21st century credentialing infrastructure.” In addition, education stakeholders should work together to create a “Credentialing Innovation Badge” that certifies their products as meeting quality assurance principles that are continuously updated.
  2. “Establish a Credentialing Innovation Fund.” 
    Federal and state governments should fund technological innovators in this space so they can prototype solutions and create a peer-review system that tests and aligns with the requirements of a Credentialing Innovation Badge system. The Workforce Policy Advisory Board (AWPAB) can be utilized for the development and maintenance of such a system.  
  3. “Make next-generation learning records available to everyone.”  
    The development and implementation of Comprehensive Learning Records (CLR’s) taking place at colleges and universities and in the military should be converted into a ubiquitous next-generation record-keeping system that can be accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they attended college or served in the military.  State and federal policymakers should fund the development and maintenance of CLRs by “providing tax credits to employers that 1) provide access to CLRs for workers who don’t have them; 2) help their workers gain new skills; and 3) upload these learning experiences to workers’ CLRs.”
  4. “Make it easier to compare credentials earned through job training programs.”
    “Credential Engine, a nonprofit working to improve credential transparency, has developed the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL). The CTDL provides a common way to describe credentials and credentialing organizations. Using the CTDL allows a credential to be uploaded to Credential Engine’s Credential Registry, which in turn makes it searchable and comparable to other available credentials. State officials should use the CTDL and the Credential Registry to modernize our job training system.”
  5. “Incentivize training providers to identify the skills they teach and sake this information accessible.”
    Postsecondary education/training institutions like community and technical colleges should delineate all job-skills achieved by a student within a credential program. These credential-specific skill-sets, known as “competency frameworks,” can be shared with employers through a “Linked Open Data format,” in which a postsecondary institutions registers their credential-specific competency framework information within a standard, publicly viewed database. This centralized data format would allow employers to see the complete postsecondary attainment of a middle-skill applicant who has achieved relevant occupational competencies and skills from multiple training providers. “Policymakers could provide funding and coordinate technical assistance to help training providers do this.”