Creating Credentialing Pathways

Credentialing pathways provide opportunities for colleges and universities to align their academic curricula with industry skill needs by embedding or aligning non-degree credentials (e.g., certificates, certifications, microcredentials) with degree programs. These pathways provide opportunities for learners to master occupationally relevant-skills that lead to living wage jobs while continuing to earn a degree.

For example, by aligning their curricula with competencies in certification exam blueprints, colleges and universities can ensure that their curricula is up-to-date and meets the skill needs defined by employers. And these pathways offer students the analytical skills they need to be lifelong learners (degree) as well as the technical skills they need to immediately contribute as professionals (certification). These pathways have the potential to benefit all learners because it is a broadly applicable, scalable approach to aligning degrees in any academic discipline with industry-relevant competencies.

Workcred began its work in this area with a grant from Lumina Foundation in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and its permanent partner, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), to identify opportunities, challenges, and practical examples associated with integrating high-quality, industry certifications into bachelor’s degree programs in order to create more opportunities for students to earn credentials with labor-market value. The project culminated with the development of a framework to develop and scale certification-degree pathways.

Certification Degree Pathways Framework

Learn more about the elements of the framework.

That work has expanded into other projects:

With support from ECMC Foundation, Workcred, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the Higher Learning Commission, and the National Student Clearinghouse are working with four community colleges to develop and implement certification + degree pathways in information technology and health science programs and establish a process for low-cost replication.

In addition, Workcred received funding from the Greater Texas Foundation to work with Houston Community College and Texas Southmost College to better align their industry credential pathways with regional labor market needs and better support low-income and first-generation learners to complete industry certification + certificate/degree pathways, earn postsecondary credentials of value, and enter the workforce.

Under a Powell Foundation grant, Workcred and Houston Community College are examining state and institutional policies to support learners to enter and complete credentialing pathways aligned with regional workforce needs. The goal is to improve alignment of pathways and policies to support low income and first-generation learners and develop recommendations for how stakeholders can alter their policies or guidelines.

And, Workcred conducted a workshop for the University of Texas System to explore how undergraduate students majoring in humanities and liberal arts could earn a data analytics microcredential and a bachelor’s degree, potentially increasing their employment opportunities and earnings outcomes. The result was a framework report that provides an overview of microcredentials; factors to consider when building or selecting a microcredential; promising microcredential practices in digital skills and data analytics; approaches to align data analytics microcredentials with undergraduate experiences; a guide for the development and implementation of microcredentials; and assets to support microcredentialing efforts in the UT System.

Workcred and the UT System are continuing their partnership by hosting a series of workshops that will inform the policies, processes, and procedures necessary to support the development and implementation of microcredentials such as standard credential definition, quality assurance standards, and mechanisms for quality improvement strategies, to help provide clarity and consistency to microcredential efforts across the UT System.

Each of these projects continues to expand the knowledge about the value of credential pathways for leaners, faculty, administrators, and employers. Contact Workcred if you are interested in developing or expanding credentialing pathways.