VA Elevates Credential Discussion

by Michelle Massie
December 19, 2014

More than 500 workforce development professionals recently met for discussions on how to improve Virginia’s workforce system. During the Virginia Community College System’s (VCCS) annual Hire Education Conference, officials from Virginia's 23 community colleges, workforce investment programs, partner agencies, legislators and business leaders gathered for three days in Hot Springs, VA.

A substantial focus of this year’s conference was on credentials. Sessions were held on credential attainment, efforts to track credentials and how to get industry on-board to validate credentials.

I led a session called “Credential Data Pioneers: Measuring Certifications and Licenses,” which described actions by states and schools to broker data sharing agreements with certification bodies and licensing agencies to better understand the attainment and value of selected non-degree credentials. The session was based on a WDQC report published earlier this year. 

In addition, Carrie Douglas, Interim Director of Workforce Development Services at VCCS, served as a co-presenter and gave an overview of a pilot that VCCS recently conducted to learn more about tracking industry credentials.

The pilot was held between February and May 2014 and involved six colleges (New River, Blue Ridge, Tidewater, Dabney S. Lancaster, Lord Fairfax and Virginia Western). The purpose was to obtain information that could assist VCCS in overcoming the challenges that have previously prevented the tracking of industry credentials such as: coding credentials appropriately to determine which students took training that led to a credential, and determining whether a student subsequently received a credential if credential testing was not included in the training program or it was not a requirement of completing the coursework.

Colleges used various strategies to track credential attainment, including:

  • Contact with course completers via electronic survey, e-mail, or phone call
  • Coordination with faculty members to identify students who went on to receive credentials
  • Contact with third-party credentialing entities to verify receipt of credentials by VCCS students
Some colleges offered incentives for students to provide the required documentation in order to verify the credentials that they received.  These included:
  • Monetary incentives and/or gift cards
  • Reimbursement for credentialing exam costs
  • Job search assistance
Through the small-scale pilot, participating colleges verified industry credentials received by nearly 400 course completers.  
The prominent discussions around credentials during the conference complemented an Executive Order by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe that established the New Virginia Economy Workforce Initiative, as well as WDQC’s state blueprint.