Workforce Credentials Coalition - Data

As industry certifications become more prevalent in the labor market, it is important for educational institutions to establish data sharing relationships with certifying bodies to ensure their programs are well aligned with industry and professional standards.

Currently, there is relatively little direct collaboration between these two groups and educational institutions often do not have access to certification exam data, limiting their ability to know if students are leaving their programs well prepared to meet industry-specified competencies.

In the absence of an effective feedback loop between certifying bodies and postsecondary educational systems, students have no way of knowing if a college course will help them pass a certifying exam, community college systems lack the data they need to improve their programs, and certifying bodies have limited data that can be shared with education providers about where their offerings could be better aligned with required skills.

Due to lack of systematic data sharing, information on third-party credential attainment is collected by surveying students or through arrangements between individual colleges and certification providers. As data collection is so variable and labor intensive, this puts a considerable burden on colleges, may limit how comprehensive the data sets are, and limits the abilities of colleges to coordinate improvement efforts across regions or sectors. However, there are numerous reasons why community colleges are seeking this information:
  • Performance-Based Funding - In many states where funding for colleges comes from a tax base, lawmakers are looking at performance-based funding models. It is likely that these models will consider external credential attainment as a performance metric.
  • Alignment with Local Needs - Many community college systems are working to better align themselves with their local industry needs, and see the competencies that are specified in industry credentials as an efficient way to test whether students are attaining critical skills. 
  • Federal Grants - The U.S. Department of Labor is requiring colleges that have been awarded Trade Assistance Act Community College Career Training Grants (TAACCCT) to track participants and report on credential attainment of the participants.  Also, following the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV), states have been urged to use technical skill assessments aligned with industry-recognized standards to measure Career and Technical Education students’ technical achievement.