In the workplace, non-degree credentials such as certificates and associates degrees offer advantages to working adults and employers, and it appears that many students are selecting this option. The number of postsecondary students seeking certificates and associate’s degrees is very close to the number of postsecondary students in bachelor’s degree programs. A new report from Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce The Overlooked Value of Certificates and Associate’s Degrees: What Students Need to Know Before They Go to College reports that about 50 percent of students of postsecondary students are enrolled in certificate and associate’s degree programs and 47 percent are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs.
Diverse Reason for Pursuing Non-degree Credentials
There are many reasons that people pursue postsecondary education. Whatever the credential, getting a job that pays well is the primary reason. Bachelor’s degrees prepare students with flexible skills they can apply to any major or employment field. About half of students’ education and credits are in general education, where they develop critical thinking, reading and writing skills. These are important in all fields and help workers be adaptable as their careers change over time, or as they move up the employment ladder.
Shorter-term credentials such as certificates and two-year associate’s degrees often closely relate to specific employment fields. These credentials can help students find jobs that pay well and require specific skills. They also can provide longevity in employment as workers pursue continual education and learn new skills they need to keep up with technology changes in their jobs. The National Center for Education Statistics records show that over a quarter of US adults have some type of non-degree credential.
Benefits for employers and employees
In a time when employers are experiencing skills gaps that directly affect their productivity and profitability, they face an immediate need for qualified employees. Non-degree credentials can help them fill these gaps. A report for Workcred, an affiliate of the American National Standards (ANSI) shows that credentials accomplish two goals: they help businesses fill skills gaps and workers learn skills they need for today’s labor market. In manufacturing 69 percent of employers said credentials helped them identify qualified people. Fifty-two percent of employers believed employees with credentials required less on-the-job training, had a better work ethic, and had longer employment terms.
Employees will also find advantages to holding alternative non-degree credentials. They can quickly gain skills closely related to their employment field demonstrate competency. As they work and technology creates changes, earning a work-related credentials means that employees can acquire new skills. These skills can lead to employment longevity that benefits both employers and employees, job promotion and wage increases. Stackable credentials can lead to higher education and give employees opportunities to complete degrees.
Credentials such as certificates can create strong skills and abilities that benefit both employers and workers. Employers that provide education benefits to cover these credentials will be able to avoid skills gaps. “Career ladders in many technology-based middle-skills occupations require constant learning on or off the job for workers to keep up or catch up with technology change,” states the Georgetown report. Edcor helps employers develop comprehensive education plans that benefit employees at all levels in their pursuit of education. Employers who offer education benefits that cover non-degree credentials as well as traditional degrees will have employees at all levels with current skills.
Western Governors University president Scott Pulsipher explains the importance of non-degree credentials. He says that stackable credentials almost guarantee lifelong learning, but they are just as important as a pathway to a degree. “We think the pathway to achieving the degree is through microcredentials or microcertifications. Subdegree and post-degree, you’ll have a series of microcredentials that have transferability, portability and stackability.” For example, he says if a student acquires a credential in medical coding, they wouldn’t have to start over to pursue a medical assistant credential or go into nursing.
Supporting employees with comprehensive education plans such as Edcor develops for clients, gives employees and employers advantages now and later. Non-degree credentials offer skills and training to fill immediate needs, but their value doesn’t last as long as a degree. Supporting employees who pursue a degree while acquiring credentials will create a long-term value for all stakeholders.
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