Credential Engine Executive Director Reflects on Credentials Matter Research

A new study from ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies fuels demand for greater credential transparency

Each year, the United States spends about $2 trillion on workforce education and training. It’s a massive investment intended to help provide the credentials — and develop the competencies and skills — that job-seekers need to succeed in today’s workforce.

Despite these investments, there is a dearth of consistent information to help students, job-seekers, and employers understand their available options, let alone determine and compare any credential’s value.

Credentials Matter Research Reflections

Credentials Matter, a new report and website released last month by ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies, seeks to shed light on the complex landscape of industry credentials. The project is much needed, as its findings help illustrate the need for greater transparency and understanding around the value of credentials– both in the job market and as academic stepping stones.

The report found there is little alignment between credentials earned by high school students and those that are in demand by employers, with more than half of credentials being oversupplied. Part of the challenge stems from a lack of information: just over half of all states collect quantitative data on credential attainment, according to the study.

Credential Engine’s Key Takeaways 1. We simply don't know enough about credentials, their competencies, the pathways they support, and their labor market outcomes. 2. As a result, disadvantages exist for: • educators in selecting the most valuable credentials to offer; • students in knowing which credentials to pursue; and • employers in knowing which credentials are aligned with their needs. 3. Programs, therefore, may end up offering credentials with sub-optimal value in the market. 4. Full credential data transparency will reveal essential information to support search, comparison, and differentiation using open data that is available for the public’s benefit. 5. Credential providers and state leaders should lead the way toward credential transparency by publishing open source data using common definitions through the credential transparency description language (CTDL) to the Credential Registry and the open web.

The Need for Transparency

Up-to-date information on credentials should be easily understood and searchable online by consumers. We already have systems like this in place in other industries, so we know this is feasible. At the moment, it is far too difficult for students and their families to get the information they need to make important decisions about their education and their careers. Identifying the right credentials for a specific career path — and understanding their real cost and value — is, at best, intimidating and, at worst, impossible. This lack of information also puts institutions and educators at a disadvantage in selecting programs to offer that provide the most value.

The lack of transparency around credentials has, in turn, fueled a lack of credential literacy across all levels of education and the workforce.

As education and training providers attempt to keep pace with the demands of this increasingly complex labor market, the number of credentials — and the need for transparency — will only grow.

The market isn’t waiting, and neither are we. By building a first-of-its kind credential data infrastructure, Credential Engine is enabling students, families, schools, and employers real-time understanding of the composition and value of a credential in a standardized fashion and empowering them to make more effective choices. We created the Credential Transparency Description Language as a type of online dictionary to create a common and consistent language for credential data. Through the Credential Registry, colleges and universities, licensing entities, certification bodies, quality assurance bodies, employers and others can share information using this language to help consumers, employers, policymakers and the providers themselves understand the value of–and connections between–credentials.  

 Our Work is Just Beginning

Burning Glass and ExcelinEd’s project is helping to answer some important and long-standing questions. But much more remains to be done to create a transparent, easily accessible system that provides greater clarity about the value of credentials. We must create the necessary tools and infrastructure to help students and their families make better, more informed decisions about their pathways to a career.

Solution Areas:

College & Career Pathways

About the Author

Kristin Lock is the Director of Marketing & Digital for ExcelinEd. In this role, she is responsible for marketing, branding, digital outreach and collateral development to support state and national policy and advocacy work to improve education for students throughout the country.