Making Information About Credentials More Actionable

By Credential Engine – Published May 27, 2021 in Credential EngineSubscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

“Learners have long struggled to find comprehensive and reliable information from the traditional postsecondary education system about credentials themselves, their value in the marketplace, and their impact on individual learner’s lives and economic mobility. This lack of information makes it difficult for learners to navigate the many education and training options.” This is where Credential Engine enters the playing field. In short, CE’s job is to make sense of the credential marketplace. For more information about CE, also see “The Insanely Large and Complex World of Credentials” and “Revealing and Comparing Credential Quality So Learners Can Make Wise Choices.”

In this report, CE concisely explains how three organizations – the Education Strategies Group (ESG), the Education Quality Outcomes Standards Board (EQOS), and the National Skills Coalition (NSC) – are “developing frameworks to contribute to the conversations around credentials’ value and quality.” In another section of the report, CE provides a list of “recommended state policymaker actions.” 

Listed below are brief descriptions of each of these organizations, as noted on their websites:
ESG – “Help[s] communities, states and, ultimately, the nation deliver a high-quality, coherent education and training system to enable economic mobility and prosperity.”

EQOS – “Helps postsecondary providers collect and report real-world outcomes data in order to establish consistent quality assurance standards across education and training programs.”  

NSC – “Fights for a national commitment to inclusive, high-quality skills training so that more people have access to a better life, and more local businesses see sustained growth.”

Three Quality Assurance Frameworks
ESG – In September 2018, ESG published a seminal report – “Credential Currency: How States Can Identify and Promote Credentials of Value” (summarized here).  In this report, ESG provides “recommendations to states for identifying credentials of value and increasing the number of students who attain them.” Best practices were identified along with national initiatives that can quicken this kind of work. In June 2019, ESG published a second seminal report – “Building Credential Currency: Resources to Drive Attainment across K-12, Higher Education, and Workforce Development.”  In this report, ESG “offers a start-to- finish process that can be modified and adapted to identify in-demand, high-skill, family sustaining wage occupations and the credentials associated with them; validates the importance of those credentials with their employer community; and incentivizes learner attainment.” 

ESG is currently helping the states of Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Washington and Ohio define and identify high-value credentials.

EQOS –  The framework of EQOS’s Education Quality Outcomes Standards “provides universal guidelines [and metrics] for all postsecondary providers to assess their students’ learning, completion, placement, earnings and satisfaction.” Additionally, “EQOS offers toolkits, templates, and technical assistance to education and training providers as they collect and report their data. It offers an EQOS Certification of Quality for providers that complete the process and have their outcomes data audited by a third-party source.”

NSC – In September 2019, NSC defined quality non-degree credentials for states. Some of the criteria and evidence for that definition entail providing evidence of job opportunities; credential-earner competencies; earning outcomes disaggregated by race, gender and other characteristics; and proof of a credential being a step within a career pathway.  

Recently, NSC held a Quality Postsecondary Credential Policy Academy “to help states adopt a cross-sector definition of quality non-degree credentials; develop a policy agenda to increase the number of residents with quality credentials; and advance data policies to support such efforts. Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia participated.”

Recommended State Policymaker Actions
“State policymakers can support quality assurance of credentials through the following actions” [specific examples from various states for each of these actions were provided in the CE report]:

  • Prioritize and coordinate efforts to assure credential transparency and quality.
  • Conduct a scan of existing quality frameworks and processes to determine which agencies have the authority and responsibility for defining credential quality and value.
  • Require that outcomes are published on public open source portals (such as the Credential Registry).
  • Support the creation of tools, services and systems with robust navigation and guidance capabilities that incorporate quality assurance measures (Roadmap action #8) so users have access to consistent information when setting their education and employment goals.
  • Compel education and training leaders to define high-quality credentials as those that meet rigorous labor market skill and demand thresholds; lead to a job with a family-sustaining wage; and offer an opportunity to “stack” to additional credentials and degrees.

For more information related to state-oriented policy actions and transparency, see CE’s “Making Sense of Credentials: A State Roadmap and Action Guide for Transparency.”

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