The Case for Certifications: The Role of Industry Certifications in Rebuilding the Workforce

Submitted by iCEV, Diamond Sponsor of the Advance CTE 2021 Spring Meeting

This is an excerpt from a white paper published by the iCEV Certification Testing Platform. Read the full article here

As the neon lights of “OPEN” signs dimmed across the nation in the spring of 2020, the promise of sustained job growth for the U.S. economy slipped away. Before March 2020, the U.S. had experienced the most prolonged era of job growth in modern history with nearly 10 years of sporadic but sustained increases, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yet, the sudden onset of COVID-19 and the associated business closures dramatically shifted the nation’s economic outlook. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported the U.S. lost 20.6 million jobs between March and May 2020. According to the Pew Research Center, the unemployment rate jumped from 3.8 percent in February 2020 to 14.4 percent in April 2020. 

While it is easy to observe the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, it is impossible to accurately predict the long-term effects, not only on the U.S economy but also on the next generation of workers. The decrease of employment opportunities, combined with a dramatic shift in instruction delivery, will undoubtedly impact how today’s young adults function in a postsecondary environment and the workforce. To compensate for the loss of educational experiences and employment prospects, young adults will need to be skilled in their fields and pursue career development opportunities. 

Even before the coronavirus, the U.S. workforce was facing a lack of skilled workers. The National Skills Coalition reported 52 percent of jobs require skills training beyond a high school diploma; however, only 43 percent of workers meet the necessary skill training level. Additionally, a multi-generational focus on college readiness rather than career readiness led to a lack of emphasis on skill development in secondary and post-secondary settings. These factors have culminated in a lack of skilled workers prepared to meet workforce demands.

To increase their marketability in a post-pandemic environment, students and working professionals can earn an industry certification in their field of choice. Industry certifications are tangible evidence of knowledge and skills in a specific area or field. Despite a rapidly evolving education system and labor force, industry certifications allow students and workers to align their knowledge and skill base to current employer needs, thereby shrinking the skills gap. 

Due to their specialized skill set, certification earners are more qualified to enter the workforce and stand out from other applicants during the hiring process. Industry certifications act as a signal to employers, letting them know the applicant has extensive training in the field and has actively sought and achieved career development opportunities. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) discovered individuals who have earned industry certifications are more likely to be employed one year after earning an industry certification than workers without a certification. Business Wire reported certification earners are twice as likely to receive a raise or promotion within six months of earning a certification compared to their non-certified coworkers. Workers who receive a raise due to earning an industry certification reported pay increases between 20 and 40 percent. According to a study conducted by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, 47 percent of millennials report earning an industry certification helped them in their career journey. 

To recoup from the economic fallout the coronavirus caused, the U.S. will need to develop a pipeline of skilled workers. Industry certification earners are more qualified and prepared to enter or transition within the workforce due to their extensive background knowledge and proven skillsets. In a struggling economy, employers need to easily identify experienced applicants, and industry certifications function as a hiring signal. 

While some fluorescent “OPEN” signs have once again begun to light doors and windows of businesses across the nation, the U.S. workforce’s trajectory has been irrecoverably shifted. As the country works toward economic recovery, it is imperative young adults take advantage of career development opportunities, such as earning an industry certification. Young workers will be the key to rebuilding the American economy, and it is essential they have the training and experience required to meet employer and industry demands. By earning an industry certification, young workers can upskill or reskill as needed, therefore strengthening their resume and increasing their employability. An investment in skills training for current students and young adults through industry certifications will bolster the workforce, shrink the skills gap and propel the U.S. toward economic recovery.  

Visit the iCEV website to learn more about the industry certifications hosted on the iCEV Certification Testing Platform and the role they can play in training the workforce and rebuilding the economy.

Visit iCEV’s virtual booth at the Advance CTE 2021 Spring Meeting! Registration is open. More information and the interactive agenda can be found here

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