Postsecondary institutions, job training programs and employers in the U.S. offer over 950,000 different kinds of credential opportunities, including professional licenses, according to Credential Engine. With this number of offered credentials, it can be difficult to determine which education and training programs will make workers competitive for employment. Moreover, it can be difficult for employers to know if a worker’s credential gives them the necessary skill set for a job.
Solutions to these realities involve making data on credentials, competencies and occupational skills fully transparent, including data on skills in greatest demand and where such skills are being taught. As more and more states work to build back a more inclusive and equitable workforce, credential transparency has come to the forefront. Particularly for licensed professions, credential transparency can provide clearer information for practitioners working to earn their license and for those already licensed professionals upskilling.
On September 22, Alabama launched the Alabama Credential Registry, a partnership among Credential Engine, the Lumina Foundation, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and the Alabama Workforce Council. This registry will congregate all certificates, licenses, traditional degrees and non-degree credentials offered in Alabama and is intended to foster transparency for both workers and employers. Workers and students will be able to find information more easily about the skills each credential certifies, its value and cost, as well as the employment opportunities it offers. Employers will be able to cross-check the existence of credentials listed on applicants resumes and the relevance to the role for which someone has applied. The Alabama Workforce Council Chair hopes to have over half of the credentials offered in Alabama published by 2023. It will help identify gaps in postsecondary offerings and facilitate new opportunities for professionals in Alabama.
Early next year, the Alabama Skills-Based Job Description Generator and Employer Portal, a tool that will allow employers to align job descriptions with more in-demand skills, also will be released. Alabama also was one of six states participating in the National Skills Coalition’s (NSC) quality postsecondary credential policy academy, where they leveraged their participation in the policy academy to build out the Credential Registry.
Other states have been moving aggressively, as well. Since 2020, several states have passed legislation to ensure information about credentials can be easily accessed, compared and connected to other education and workforce data. In 2021, Connecticut passed legislation that requires the executive director of the Office of Higher Education to create a database of “credentials”, defined as a documented award issued by an authorized body – the state is utilizing resources from Credential Engine. In Texas, legislators passed a bill that encourages the creation of a “library” of credentials. Additionally, Indiana partnered with their Professional Licensing Agency to add 47 licenses to their registry that prepare graduates to become licensed. The state also has published pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) with the intention to add other fields with available licensure exam results.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has identified four legislative actions states can take to increase credential transparency in their states: (1) developing statewide goals for credential attainment, (2) identifying high value credentials, (3) developing protocols to provide academic credit for completion of state-approved credentials, (4) and providing incentives or mandates for credential programs.
Increasing credential transparency can concurrently address other state goals in workforce development including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for displaced workers who seek to upgrade their skills or enter a different field. Other actions states could take to utilize credential transparency to lower barriers to licensure are leveraging credential databases to strengthen license portability, accessing apprenticeship programs and creating more inclusive workforces that include veterans, foreign-trained professionals, and individuals with criminal records.
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