Workcred has partnered with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) and George Washington University (GWU) to work on a two-year, comprehensive study of industry and occupational certifications, funded by Lumina Foundation. The study is intended to provide policymakers, practitioners, employers, and funders with a clearer picture of the dimensions, patterns, and trends among certifications, as well as how they currently or could interrelate with other parts of the credentialing ecosystem.
The work will shed light on the current and potential roles for industry and professional certifications as a means of representing competencies attained, and as a vehicle for increasing labor-market mobility. The research will also cover where certifications present the risk of being dead-end credentials that can limit access to opportunity, and how to instead ensure certifications serve as part of lifelong pathways for advancement.
“Certifications are one of the most important and fastest growing credentials today,” says Roy Swift, Ph.D., Workcred executive director. “As certifications require individuals to recertify and update knowledge on an ongoing basis, it is the only ‘lifelong’ credential that can continually adapt to the fast and ever-changing workforce. This in-depth study will serve to highlight the use, quality, and effectiveness of certifications in achieving the goals of lifelong learning.”
The research team will examine certifications in seven industries/occupations, including some that have been previously studied and some that have not. Among the dimensions the team will explore: the purpose of the certification, its relationship to education and employment, the scale of use and customer expressed value, quality assurance, and transparency. The team will use the seven industries/occupations being studied to build an integrated picture of the continuum of certifications in use in the United States.
“Certifications are the least understood and studied type of credential,” says CSW president Larry Good. “Our team seeks to provide a solid baseline about the dynamics of certifications and inform their improved use.”
“Lumina Foundation is thrilled to support this vital research project on industry and occupational certifications,” says Courtney Brown, Lumina’s vice president of strategic impact. “With nearly 5,500 certification programs in today’s educational marketplace—not counting licensures, apprenticeships, and badges—it’s important that we paint a clear picture of the complex mosaic of industry and occupational certifications that can inform their use by employers, jobseekers, educators, policymakers, industry/professional associations, and researchers.”
The Workcred–CSW–GWU team is currently searching for relevant prior reports and data sources. “Since the certification landscape and information about it is so fragmented, the directors of this study welcome any suggestions that others may care to offer regarding relevant reports, data sources, and developments,” says Stephen Crawford, research professor at GWU’s Institute of Public Policy.