Credentials Count: Why Industry Credentials are Important for Our Students, Schools and Communities
By: Emily Passias
This week, the Ohio Department of Education is releasing updates to our approved industry-recognized credential list. This list of credentials allows students to qualify for high school graduation through the credential and WorkKeys pathway, as well as gives schools and districts credit on their report cards for their efforts to prepare students for careers. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss why credentials are important for our students, schools, businesses and communities.
What’s in it for students?
In addition to being a key piece of one of Ohio’s new graduation pathways, there are many reasons earning industry credentials is valuable for students. The process of earning an industry-recognized credential (and career-technical education in general) allows students to experience education through work, about work and for work. Students learn more deeply by practicing and applying their knowledge through work and employment experiences – learning through work. They learn about workplace expectations in terms of professional or “soft” skills needed for employment, as well as learning about career pathways and what the labor market for particular occupations looks like – learning about work. And, they learn the job-specific skills they will need to perform day-to-day tasks – learning for work.
Earning an industry-recognized credential isn’t the end of something – for many students, it’s the beginning. It’s the first step in achieving career aspirations. It’s an opportunity to earn a good wage while pursuing additional education. Industry credentials aren’t obtained instead of going to college – often they’re part of a larger plan to help pay for college. Credentials are evidence of work ethic, drive and persistence that can be used to catapult students into the future. It’s an achievement to be celebrated and will continue to pay dividends back to the students throughout their careers.
It’s important to note that not all industries use credentials as validation of knowledge and skills. Students whose interests lie in those fields shouldn’t be required or encouraged to work toward credentials that won’t offer them value in their future careers. Instead, those students should work toward obtaining whatever is needed in their future careers. For some students, that might be taking advantage of College Credit Plus, while for others, that might be engaging in meaningful, work-based learning experiences in their areas of interest.
What’s in it for schools?
Let’s start with the practical – schools get credit in the Prepared for Success measure on the report card for students who earn approved industry-recognized credentials or groups of credentials. Including industry credentials in this component places an emphasis on the career readiness of students. In a world where “what gets measured gets done,” the inclusion of industry credentials in the accountability system signals Ohio’s commitment to the career preparation of students.
In addition to the Prepared for Success measure, industry credentials are a key component of Ohio’s new graduation requirements. In fact, earning an industry credential as part of the graduation pathway gives schools a bigger bang for their buck in terms of accountability, since those credentials both qualify students for graduation (thus counting positively in the graduation rate), as well as being included in Prepared for Success.
Accountability measures aside, I know from conversations with educators around the state that we’re all working toward the goal of ensuring our students are ready to move on to whatever comes after high school. Helping students earn industry credentials while still in high school is tangible evidence that your students are walking out the door ready for the future. If knowing your students are prepared for the future isn’t motivation enough to encourage students to work toward a credential, then I don’t know what is!
What’s in it for businesses and communities?
Imagine you’re a business owner looking to hire some new employees. A stack of applications sits on your desk, and they all look about the same. How do you decide which applicants to interview? How do you assess their knowledge and skills? This is where industry credentials come in to play.
Businesses across the state are clamoring for highly qualified employees with industry credentials of value. Finding, hiring and retaining high-quality employees is a monumental task. But, industry-recognized credentials help employers validate the knowledge and skills of potential employees and saves valuable time in assessing the skills of job applicants. Knowing an applicant selected for an interview has the knowledge and skills your company needs gives employers peace of mind that their future employees will be ready to hit the ground running. When businesses thrive, communities thrive as well. Having highly qualified workers can actually draw businesses to a particular area, creating even more job opportunities for local workers.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on industry-recognized credentials and helping students be prepared for success.
- What are you doing locally to help students earn credentials?
- How can we restructure the high school years or the delivery of career-technical education programming to ensure that students have the time and opportunities to get the critical work-based learning experiences needed to qualify for many credentials?
- How do we communicate the value of credentials to parents and students so that more students can take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them through earning approved industry-recognized credentials?
- In my future posts, we’ll discuss how the department identifies credentials of value, as well as how to support students in earning industry-recognized credentials.
Dr. Emily Passias is director of the Office of Career-Technical Education at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on state policies aimed at preparing students for college and careers.