Credentials Can Affect the Future of Higher Education and Jobs

By Adrienne Way, Edcor Owner and CEO

Predicting the future of higher education and jobs is a new challenge in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Technology growth and data about technology adoption influenced previous predictions about education and jobs, even predictions made just a few months ago.  Today technology is still growing and all that data is still relevant. But the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 is a new factor in the predictions about the future of high education and jobs.

Rising unemployment is plaguing many industries and thousands of people are facing employment insecurity. Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies says, “To be sure, the layoffs are widespread across multiple industries, but it is clear that lower-skilled jobs are among the first to be eliminated and, more than likely, they will be the last to return. We’re watching the need to retrain accelerate.”   The jobs that are being lost now are the same jobs that have been lost and will continue being lost because of automation and technology, he explains. The rate of job losses is accelerating with COVID-19 as an additional force.

Job losses and employment changes mean that higher education is more important than ever. The recession in 2008 showed that many low-skill jobs will be lost and never return, says Jamie Merisotis, CEO and president of Lumina Foundation. He believes that the future of education and jobs must include a long-term picture for everyone. “We can no longer think of education and training as separate types of learning that should never meet or be reserved for certain people and not others. Education should prepare us for the changing nature of work. Training on and off the job that engages us over our entire lives should equip us with the skills most relevant to finding and keeping meaningful work.”   For Merisotis and many others that means that higher education will include meaningful credentials and different pathways to education completion.

Finding meaningful work could mean pursuing additional postsecondary education along with changing jobs and careers for many people. Living with COVID-19 is impacting our society and culture. The future of education and jobs could be different from what we were anticipating this time last year. Sean Gallagher, founder and executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, says that American workers and employers recognize that life-long learning is important to working with technology growth and change. He adds, “Upskilling workers to compete in a more technology-driven job market—and developing human skills to or work alongside smart machines—is now even more of an imperative.”

Many businesses may find that their commitment to employee education benefits is a key to economic recovery after this pandemic. During recessions employers often cut-back on employee benefits. However, considering education benefits as an investment will enable employers to have sufficient talent to rebuild productivity and services after the crisis. Gallagher says that for many workers and employers, pursuing credentials such as certificates or credentials other than a bachelor’s degree can be a valuable investment. Microcredentials can offer education in quicker, smaller chunks that can fill immediate needs. They can be portable and often stack or build into a degree.

Adults who have certificates or certifications have higher employment rates, higher annual incomes, and believe their education paths are more valuable that adult who do not have non-degree credentials.

Employers such as Edcor clients recognize the value of credentials such as certificates and certifications in the future of higher education and jobs their employees will hold. Up to 65 percent of Edcor’s client base includes one or both of these credentials under their tuition policy umbrella, and these employers have up to 50 percent utilization by their employees. The future of higher education and jobs are intertwined for education providers that offer credentials and businesses that recognize their value. Businesses that will recover from the current financial crisis are those that understand their investment in employee education is an investment in filling their future employment needs.