Reaching Workforce Practitioners

by Michelle Massie
November 7, 2014

Workforce education professionals from across the country converged on Pittsburgh last week for the annual conference of the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE) for the chance to network with peers; and to discuss linkages between policy, workforce education and training, and economic development. Conference attendees represented K-12 systems, postsecondary institutions, workforce boards, think tanks, community-based organizations and government agencies.

Over the course of two days, sessions were offered on a range of topic areas which included: utilizing labor market information, prior learning assessments, employer engagement, data collection and career pathways.

The conference featured a few panels on credentialing, including a session where I was a panelist, titled “Expanding the Measures of Success.”

Panelists discussed the vast credentials marketplace and the need for better data on certification and license attainment to gauge how well postsecondary institutions—particularly community colleges—are preparing students to meet industry standards. This data would allow colleges to get credit for another form of student success besides degree/certificate attainment, and help them identify programs that need updated curricula. Case studies were presented from states that are focused on the need to better understand workforce credentialing.

The panel also featured:

  • Nick Kremer, Chair of the Vocational Education Research and Technical Advisory Committee (VERATAC), who framed the challenges of data exchange between colleges and industry certification groups. He also set the stage to present promising examples of how further infrastructure developments will support the growth of a system of aligned credentials with labor market value.
  • Sharon Boivin, National Center for Educational Statistics, who discussed the work of the  Federal Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment (GEMEnA), which she chairs. GEMEnA has developed working definitions of alternative credentials, which aligns with WDQC’s federal policy recommendation to establish consistent definitions of credentials across federal agencies and programs.

Another panel titled “Creating a U.S. Credentials Framework” discussed a project led by the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and Center for Law and Social Policy that is developing a unified tool for showing the levels and types of competencies involved in degrees, certificates, industry certifications and other credentials.

Together, the certification and credentialing-focused workshops gave conference attendees a quick course in the challenges and progress being made around counting industry-recognized credentials.