7 Ways Employers Can Transform Credentials

The proliferation of educational options and wide array of postsecondary credentials in the U.S. marketplace provide a great national opportunity for increasing economic competitiveness and economic opportunity. However, we’re not realizing that potential today. Beyond using the bachelor’s degree as a rough proxy for work readiness, many employers struggle to understand how to interpret what different kinds of degrees, certificates, industry certifications, licenses, badges, and micro-credentials represent in terms of what people actually know and are able to do. 

Many employers don’t see the return on investment in using these credentials in their hiring and promotional practices. Often learners find credentialing options confusing and chaotic, and containing too many dead ends, especially those who are low-income, minority and otherwise underserved and underrepresented.

Lumina Foundation and Corporation for a Skilled Workforce just released a seven-point action plan, Connecting Credentials: From National Dialogue to Collective Action, that spells out specific actions employers and employer associations can take to transform the credentialing marketplace into one that produces greater value for employers, workers, job seekers, and other learners.

The action plan comes from Connecting Credentials, an informal network of more than 100 organizations spanning business, education, labor, accreditation/certification, government, and technical/data services providers.

The plan identifies specific things that should be done in the following key areas for action:

  1. Develop scalable ways to engage employers in the credentialing marketplace.
  2. Empower learners to navigate the credentialing ecosystem.
  3. Develop common language centered on competencies.
  4. Create an open, interoperable data and technology infrastructure.
  5. Foster shared understanding of credential quality among stakeholders and reciprocity among quality assurance processes.
  6. Pursue public policy agenda that advances equity in the credentialing ecosystem.
  7. Promote field-based development of new credentialing tools, policies and practices.

The action plan argues strongly that no priority area should be left out or left to lag. Stakeholders at all levels (national, state, local) and from all perspectives (business, labor, education, learner) should dive in and tackle changes they see as crucial. The plan specifically recommends that employers and employer associations:

  • Organize at the local and regional levels to clearly communicate demand for competencies and credentials to learners, workers, and credential providers.
  • Incorporate competencies and credentials in talent sourcing and development processes.
  • Play a more direct role in work experience that leads to credentialing (e.g., internships, work-to-learn, co-op education, employer-embedded assessments in education programs, assessment of learning acquired in workplace) and assuring the quality of programs and institutions. 

To learn more, visit the Connecting Credentials website.


Evelyn Ganzglass is Co-Director, Connecting Credentials