Report: The Credentials People Get Are Not Always the Ones Companies Want

Jobs & Careers

Report: The Credentials People Get Are Not Always the Ones Companies Want

By Wade Tyler Millward     Mar 8, 2019

Report: The Credentials People Get Are Not Always the Ones Companies Want

Almost 30 percent of industry-recognized credentials American students recently earned relate to careers in architecture and construction. Yet just 8 percent of them are in demand by employers.

And only .1 percent of students earned a particular credential that could lead to a nearly $82,000 information technology job.

These are just some of the findings teased Monday at a SXSW EDU panel on industry-recognized credentials developed or adopted by businesses to verify students have the technical skills needed for certain jobs.

The findings come from a forthcoming report on the gap between the credentials that schools offer and the credentials employers actually demand. The report is based on data received from almost half of U.S. states, and most of that data on secondary students.

The report, expected to publish in April, is a collaboration between Tallahassee, Fla.-based think tank Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Boston-based analytics software company Burning Glass Technologies.

“We’re not saying schools should start or stop offering these credentials,” said Quentin Suffren, innovation policy managing director at the foundation, which is also known as ExcelinEd. The report “is not meant to shame anyone.”

The foundation was founded by 2016 presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Its board includes heavyweights in education (former Newark Public Schools Superintendent Chris Cerf and former New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein), politics (former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and former U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor) and business and philanthropy (Dee Bagwell Haslam, co-owner of the Cleveland Browns NFL team). U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos used to sit on the board.

Crucial Credentials?

Suffren and Burning Glass senior research analyst Layla O’Kane said the purpose of the report is to inform state policies on credentials. Although some states leave credentials up to local school districts, states can provide support and guidance on which credentials to offer and how to collect meaningful data on credential earners, Suffren noted.

The report’s findings may be skewed by factors including some states’ most recent data coming from different school years, states reporting most of the data themselves instead of third-party vendors, and some states not tracking the data the researchers sought, O’Kane acknowledged.

He also expects students, parents and educators will use the report to pursue credential programs offered by schools. “We need to broaden our understanding of what postsecondary experiences are and what postsecondary credentials include,” he added.

Career and technical education is nothing new, but many schools need to consider changes to programs that earn students credentials that lack competitive advantage in the job market, Suffren said. Employers hardly demanded five of the credentials most earned by students, according to the report.

Those credentials are:

  • NCCER - Core Curriculum
  • Adobe Certified Associate
  • NCCER - Carpentry
  • IC3 Certification
  • OSHA 10-Hour - General

Employers seek job candidates who know Microsoft and Adobe products, but don’t necessarily demand candidates be certified in those programs, according to the report.

While companies may not ask for the certifications by name, the process involved in obtaining them is helpful in preparing people entering the workforce, said Craig Bushman, a vice president at certification exam developer and provider Certiport. The company developed the Adobe Certified Associate credential.

“Millennials know their way around an iPhone,” he said. “But many of them can’t use Excel in an office setting.”

Employers also share blame for the credentials gap with school districts and state policymakers, Suffren said. Businesses need to list desired credentials in job postings more often and better communicate their hiring needs with schools instead seeking solutions outside traditional education.

“That has not been and will not be a sustainable strategy,” Suffren said.

By contrast, the top five most in-demand credentials, according to the forthcoming report, were:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • ServSafe Manager
  • Automotive Service Excellence Certification
  • Certified Medical Assistant
  • Certified Pharmacy Technician
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