Students today may graduate and receive a high school diploma, but what leverage does this provide out in the real world? You don’t have to be an employer to know that a high school diploma will not give someone a leg up when looking for a job. In today’s competitive workforce, individuals will have to be equipped with some proof that documents their ability to meet career expectations. Many programs may cultivate well-qualified and skilled individuals, but without a recognized credential these students do not have the documentation that will capture employers’ attention and trust. So, how do we help individuals stand out and, most importantly, secure a job?
A credential – a license, certification or degree – is a form of documentation that may give a student the edge employers look for, as they place a higher premium on evidence of career training and some type of postsecondary education. We may recognize this fact, but what are the next action steps we must take? The long hard work of determining which credentials are of the quality that will be recognized by employers stands before us. But do we even know what credentials are out there? At NASDCTEc, we have put together sample listings of credentials that exist nationally in order to provide a foundation upon which to build as knowledge and implementation of credentials grows.
These listings reflect NASDCTEc’s vested interest in the Career Clusters framework and the programs of study model born out of it, which clearly states the necessity for studies to end in a credential. We are aware, however, of the limited resources for credential information. To help publicize what is available nationally, we have updated the credentials listings, originally part of the 2002 Career Clusters Resources guides, to remove and edit inaccuracies and to reflect the new credentials that have emerged in the past eight years. These credentials, organized by cluster, are not endorsed by NASDCTEc; they do not include everything that is available, but rather provide examples of the different kinds of licenses, certificates and degrees currently granted on a national level.
While interest in credentials is increasing, we realize that assessing the inventory of credentials is just the first step to understanding how credentials will play a role in helping individuals gain employment. We must still address some challenging questions, particularly: how do we create and implement assessments that both accurately measure skills and provide students with a credential that is valued by industry and postsecondary institutions?
A recent article written by our own Executive Director Kimberly Green and Communications and Marketing Manager Erin Uy for ACTE’s Techniques magazine, “Raising the Bar: Technical Assessments for Secondary CTE Programs” (page 23-26), tackled this difficult question. To help give answers, the article looks at OVAE’s exploration of a test item bank and assessment clearinghouse as a means of systemic solution and also SkillsUSA as an example of an incremental solution that is industry-guided. Finally, it cites the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) program as an example of an assessment and certification that is valued by both industry and postsecondary institutions. These three main examples show the difference in approach the nuance required to respond. There is no one correct way, we must combine the new and existing assessments; collectively, there is a solution.
While our work has been cut out for us, we hope that our updated credentials listings will serve as a valuable resource!