Americans’ knowledge and skills directly impact their chances to earn economic security and climb the income ladder. Their knowledge and skills also impact the stability and growth of the American economy. American businesses need workers whose knowledge and skills help business develop, benefit from advances in technology, and compete globally.
This is why Lumina Foundation has set Goal 2025: that 60 percent of American hold high quality post- secondary credentials, certificates or degrees by the year 2025. To meet the growing need for talent and for both businesses and individuals to prosper, it is important that more Americans earn post-secondary credentials.
By 2025, at the current rate of attainment, 24.2 million Americans will earn postsecondary credentials. But to reach Goal 2025, 16.4 million more people will need to earn them also. This means that in all demographic groups, more people need to seek credentials that will allow them to be a vital part of the economy. One avenue for many is to earn certifications. Certifications are industry-recognized credentials. They represent demonstrated skills and knowledge. They are awarded through an assessment that validates the learner has achieved specific outcomes rather than being awarded for a specific amount of “seat time.”
Certifications are a valuable piece of the higher education picture. They offer a valuable outcome for working adults who may be searching for a path to a higher income. For people who have not pursued higher education and may or may not be able to pursue a degree at the current time, a certification offers benefits. In “First Credential for Adults,” Lumina states, “Working adults need shorter-term programs that lead to an immediate improvement in their quality of life.”
Including certifications into employee tuition assistance plans can bring benefits to both employers and employees.
Certifications are often embedded into academic programs. Students may need to pass a certification exam as a course requirement or a certification exam may be a capstone project. Certifications may be “stackable,” or layered, and as students progress through a program, they will demonstrate skill as well as earn credits. Certifications may be part of continuing education for employees who have earned a degree, but need to learn new skills. Earning credentials can help employees be agile and adapt to changing work conditions. Supporting certifications for employees with TAP benefits make it possible for employees and businesses to see fast results from education and training.
Certifications are a starting point into higher education for many adults. Today about 3.3 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 hold job-related certifications as their highest level of postsecondary education. Some of these people acquired their certification while they were working. Some certifications require taking specific class taught by qualified instructors, working for a minimum period of time or completing work-related tasks. Work offers an environment for employees to complete these requirements. Supporting this education as part of TAP benefits both employee and employer.
Certifications represent an opportunity for businesses to drive changes in education and work preparation. Employers often feel that employees are not prepared for work. Making their needs known to higher education institutions is advantageous to all stakeholders. Holly Zanville Senior Advisor for Credentialing and Workforce Development at Lumina Foundation says, “Combining academic and industry credentials, curriculum alignment with industry needs, and assurance to employers about readiness of students are the top three benefits to embedding industry certifications in education.”
When certifications are part of an academic program:
• students earn academic credit along with industry and professional certification
• colleges and universities have curricula that meet industry standards
• employers will have employees who have been trained to meet their specification.
Supporting employee education through TAP makes certifications a vital part of employee and business growth.
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