Career and technical education (CTE) instructors across the country share a common goal: to prepare students for a successful career in the modern workplace. That preparation often includes obtaining a certification associated with a particular career pathway. But are your students pursuing certifications that matter? That’s an important question that all CTE instructors need to ask.
A Widening Skills Gap
According to ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies’ Credentials Matter Report 1: A National Landscape of High School Student Credential Attainment Compared to Workforce Demand (“Credentials Matter Report”):
U.S. employers are struggling to find qualified applicants across a range of career sectors. In 12 career areas—including healthcare, computers and mathematics—demand for workers exceeded available supply by a total of 4.4 million job openings in 2016. This gap threatens our economy, undermines the innovation and competitiveness in many of our leading industries and will only worsen in a fast-changing market where jobs increasingly blend capabilities from different domains.
Although the skills gap has been widely publicized, it continues to widen. According to a recent Bloomberg article, many employers claim the nation’s “talent shortage is one of the greatest threats to their organizations today.” In fact, the article cites a recent IBM survey that concludes the impact of intelligent automation on jobs will mean that more than 120 million workers globally (11.5 million in the U.S.) will require retraining in the next three years.
Bridging the Skills Gap with Credentials
The nation’s secondary and post-secondary educational institutions are on the front lines of the battle to bridge the skills gap. While industries work to retrain current workers, schools must increase the number of students entering the workforce with the skills they need to succeed.
CTE programs, which currently serve more than eight million secondary students, drive workforce preparation at the high school level. They’re also the main way students earn credentials, such as educational certificates, degrees, certifications, and government-issued licenses, that verify particular skills or competencies.
According to the Credentials Matter Report, credentials can help bridge the skills gap by evidencing career readiness by validating “the knowledge and skills required for success in a given occupation or industry.” The report also estimates that “65% of positions demand postsecondary credentials” in today’s job market.
Credentials Have Value
ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies also collaborated on another report, Where Credentials Meet the Market: State Case Studies on the Effect of High School Industry Credentials on Educational and Labor Market Outcomes, released in June 2019. This report reached the following conclusions regarding the value of credentials:
Credential attainment is associated with a variety of positive educational and labor market outcomes. Across all three states studied [Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky], earning a credential was associated with an increase in the probability of graduating high school on time. Evidence from Florida indicates that CTE students who earn credentials are more likely to enroll in community college, and once enrolled more likely to graduate. Similar evidence from Kentucky shows that earning a credential in high school is associated with a greater likelihood of earning an Associate’s degree. Finally, in Florida and Indiana, earning a credential in high school was associated with increased wages.
Credentials appear to motivate students to complete high school and pursue further education. They may also help students get higher-paying jobs. But are credentials making an impact in the effort to bridge the skills gap? This question is not easy to answer, and it appears that there may be a discrepancy between the popularity of some credentials and their value in the labor marketplace.
Not All Credentials Are Created Equal
Even though credentials are associated with positive benefits to students, not all credentials are created or valued equally. As noted in the Credentials Matter Report, “[m]any factors determine the value of specific credentials,” and the credentials many CTE programs encourage “too often have little currency with today’s employers and are, therefore, of questionable career value to students.”
For educators, the goal is clear: CTE programs need to be highly-aligned with regional workforce needs so that students can be directed toward credentials that will be valued by employers. Currently, however, many credentials being earned are oversupplied and thus provide no real benefit in the labor marketplace.
The Credentials Matter Report highlights some disturbing facts for educators:
“half of all states aren’t collecting the necessary data to know how aligned their credential programs are with employer demand, and not a single state’s secondary credential program measures as “highly aligned” with the job market.”
To ensure that credentials are highly-aligned with the job market, the Credential Matters Report recommends that CTE programs focus on “industry-recognized” credentials. As defined by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), an “industry-recognized” credential is:
sought or accepted by employers within the industry or sector involved as a recognized, preferred or required credential for recruitment, screening, hiring, retention or advancement purposes; and where appropriate, is endorsed by a nationally recognized industry association or organization representing a significant part of the industry or sector.
The Credentials Matter Report notes that “industry-recognized credentials represent clear evidence that students have mastered knowledge and skills needed for entry to and continued advancement in a specific occupation” and “can open doors to middle- and higher-wage careers—something that is no longer possible with just a high school diploma.”
How can educators align their CTE programs to direct students toward high-value, industry-recognized credentials? The Credentials Matter Report gives the following advice:
All stakeholders must play a role in improving alignment to ensure students have opportunities to be successful. State agencies, policymakers, employers, educators, credentialing entities and families can improve student career readiness by identifying, promoting and reporting valued industry-recognized credentials…To see the greatest impact, states and stakeholders must undertake this work through strategic partnerships and collaboration.
Amatrol: Your Strategic Partner
With over 30 years of experience, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in skills-based interactive technical learning that uniquely combines hands-on industrial training equipment with comprehensive, highly-interactive multimedia curriculum. Amatrol offers programs that support industry-recognized credentials from three respected certifying bodies: MSSC, SACA, and PMMI.
The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) offers two popular certifications that focus on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s front-line production and material handling workers. MSSC’s Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification recognizes skills in five key areas: Safety; Quality Practices & Measurement; Manufacturing Processes & Production; Maintenance Awareness; and Green Production. The Certified Production Technician+ Skill Boss Manufacturing (CPT+) certification takes skill accreditation one step further with a more “hands-on” approach utilizing the CPT+ Skill Boss Manufacturing assessment device.
The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) offers Industry 4.0 certifications that focus on “connected systems” skills that address the integration of Industry 4.0 technology into advanced industrial processes. Amatrol’s Industry 4.0 Fundamentals (I4F) program was developed by subject matter experts in conjunction with real-world feedback from industry and educational institutions to ensure that students build industrial competencies in Industry 4.0 technologies that will allow them to earn a variety of SACA certifications.
The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (formerly Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute) (PMMI) is the leading global resource for the packaging and processing industry. PMMI offers Mechatronics Certification Tests across multiple disciplines. These certifications are based on industry-developed standards and recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as the Manufacturing Institute's Skills Certification System. Amatrol offers more than a dozen eLearning courses in areas such as electrical, electronics, fluid power, and mechanical that support the following PMMI Mechatronics Certification Tests: Industrial Electricity 1, Fluid Power 1, Mechanical Components 1, and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) 1.
Visit Amatrol online to learn how you can leverage its technical training expertise to align your CTE program with the needs of your regional workforce. Amatrol can help you bridge the skills gap and transform the global workforce one life at a time.