Experts from Lumina Foundation and The Manufacturing Institute Discuss the Education-to-Workforce Continuum to Grow a Skilled Workforce
Across the country, the Clearinghouse continues to see the importance of industry-based credentials in growing a skilled workforce.
As part of our Voice of the Customer series for Clearinghouse staff, the Clearinghouse’s Chief of Staff Roberta Hyland recently discussed industry credentials with Dr. Courtney Brown, vice president of strategic impact at Lumina Foundation, and Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Manufacturing Institute. The Clearinghouse is helping these two organizations learn from data and, ultimately, achieve their education-to-workforce goals.
Q: Can you both give us a little background on your organizations?
Courtney: At Lumina Foundation, we direct all of our talents and resources toward a mission of increasing Americans’ attainment of education beyond high school. More specifically, we work toward a single goal of what we call Goal 2025, which strives toward. The 2025 goal of 60 percent of working-age people with degrees, certificates, or other quality credentials that position them for informed citizenship and success in a global society.
Gardner: The Manufacturing Institute is a part of the National Association of Manufacturers. We’ve been trying to do two key things with the manufacturing sector. Number one is attract more individuals to those careers. Number two is to prepare students to be successful in a manufacturing career. Almost every position today requires at least some level of postsecondary training and a lot of them require an associate degree. So we look at the entire credentialing landscape within manufacturing.
Q: What problem did you think that the Clearinghouse was uniquely positioned to help your organizations?
Courtney: We are working with the Clearinghouse to look at student progression and pathways going through the higher education system and adding other types of credentials and learning that comes outside of higher education. The Clearinghouse has done an amazing job of being able to show a student’s journey through higher education and providing us with a clear picture of the different pathways people take and when one credential leads to further education.
Gardner: When we first began our partnership with the Clearinghouse, we were very interested in discovering which schools were doing a good job of issuing these credentials. We knew that we were seeing a large increase in the numbers, but we didn’t know which schools were doing a good job. Not only did we need an organization that had access to this data, we needed an organization that knew how to handle and respect data. We were looking for a trusted and responsible organization to handle this data. Frankly, a collaborative partner that could do that and also bring other elements to research and to innovation all within the construct of respect for the data and the data providers.
Q: What role does non-credit course data play in the whole ongoing evolution?
Courtney: The non-credit piece is essential. Many students today take classes at their community college to learn something for non-credit and then they go sit for an industry exam to get a certification or some other type of credential. Although the student has learned something and demonstrated competency the non-credit course doesn’t count or provide a pathway to further education. We are working toward changing non-credit for credit or at least documenting the learning so it is more transparent. This way the student has a record of what they know and are able to do, and they can create a pathway to further education.
Gardner: On the non-credit side, the community colleges are in a difficult position. They have a requirement to maintain their accreditation to get access to students, but they also have a requirement to serve their local labor market. So as far as serving the labor market, those are entirely rational decisions. Our hope is that this project will be a catalyst for many states to really begin to get a handle on what their non-credit programs are doing. Then in the long run, figure out a way to translate that work into a recognition system through third-party credentials or ultimately through transfer to credit that allows the students’ work to come out of the shadows.
Courtney: We really see this as an ecosystem that’s just continuing to grow. It’s no longer the case that somebody goes to college at age 18, studies for four years, and then never learns again. The future is a continuous cycle of work and learning, and learning and work.. We need to make sure that we have a data system and a credentialing system so that we can verify and store these learnings whether for credit or not for credit.
Q: Can you tell us what’s going on at the state level and how that plays into the national work that you’re doing?
Gardner: From the credentialing standpoint, states have been paying for the attainment and the tests to earn credentials for a while, but they haven’t been able to really know whether or not these are meaningful and haven’t been able to really know which institutions are successful and actually awarding these. We’re definitely seeing states take the lead on this more so than the federal government.
Courtney: At Lumina, we have an attainment agenda, which means we want to hold people to the idea that it’s not just about getting students to enroll, it’s getting students to the finish line. But when we hold that standard through community colleges, often they get hurt the most because while they are serving students and the students may be coming in and taking some classes for non-credit, they may be receiving a credential outside of the community college, but they don’t always count toward their outcome-based funding or the performance funding within states. In some states there are conversations about how they can use student aid to pay for non-credit or industry credentials, while other states are working to figure out how community colleges can get credit for the knowledge, skills and the credentials that their students are earning outside of the higher education system. Many of the states are trying to figure this out, but it’s a little bit tricky because ultimately we want to make sure these are high quality credentials and they are leading to education and employment. Tracking those completions through the Clearinghouse is really essential to helping those community colleges demonstrate successful student outcomes.
Hyland (In Closing): A trusted national source for accurate information on the effectiveness of educational pathways in America today, the Clearinghouse values the credential needs of today’s learners, institutions and industries, and continues to work on a solution to create a better understanding of student success through the education-workforce continuum. Thank you to our collaborative partners, Lumina Foundation and The Manufacturing Institute, for contributing to this work.
“The Clearinghouse has done an amazing job of being able to show the student’s journey through higher education and providing us with a clear picture of the different pathways people take and when one credential leads to further education.”
Vice President of Strategic Impact at Lumina Foundation