How Can Credentials Close the COVID Divide?


Workcred's executive director, Roy Swift, Ph.D., recently joined panelists at a Certification Network Group (CNG) webinar to discuss how to elevate the visibility, relevance, and value of certifications to help close the pandemic divide. The webinar, "COVID: Certification’s Opportunity to Create Value in a Chaotic Work World," included academic and certification experts, and was the first in a series of programs the CNG is producing to address the challenges that the coronavirus has brought to bear for the U.S. workforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a social and economic divide that disproportionately affects workers of industries that may not recover to previous employment levels. Workers seem to be aware of the challenge, as one-third of individuals in the workforce indicate that they believe they will need additional education and skills to find comparable employment if they lose their job, according to an April Strada Education Network survey.

Dr. Swift emphasized in his presentation that certifications could provide a fast solution: they can assist workers in finding jobs, and, according to the Strada statistics, adults without a degree who hold a certificate or certification have higher full-time employment rates than their peers with no credentials (85% versus 78%).

Recent Lumina Foundation studies also reveal the valuable impact of certifications on job outcomes, as workers with certifications are more likely to see their job as a career (54%) than those without certifications (37%). Dr. Swift noted that certifications are good for career creativity as well: Workers with certifications are more likely than those without certifications to say they are expected to be creative or innovative in their jobs (58% versus 43%).

Credential Facts: Adults without a degree who hold a certificate or certification:

  • Have a median annual income of $45,000, compared to $30,000 for those without a credential
  • Perceive their education paths as more valuable and are more likely to recommend them to others than are those without a credential (According to Strada Education Network)

Highlighting Workcred’s related work, Dr. Swift added that to address the return on investment of certifications, Workcred, through its Voluntary Data Sharing Network, is engaging more than 30 certification bodies in discussions around the value of sharing their data so policymakers, funders of research, state officials, consumers of certifications, and education and training providers can better understand the information about credentials.

He also provided an overview of Workcred's other efforts and recent projects, including the publication developed in partnership with the National Governors Association (NGA), "Understanding Quality: The Role of States in Supporting Quality Non-Degree Credentials," which outlines recommendations for states to empower workers and strengthen state economies amid the significant disruption caused by COVID-19.

Additionally, Workcred's first manufacturing research study, "Examining the Quality, Market Value, and Effectiveness of Manufacturing Credentials in the United States," which was funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, features recommendations on how credentialing can be improved to advance the manufacturing industry for manufacturers, credentialing organizations, educators, accreditors, and policymaker. Efforts have led to Workcred receiving a follow-up grant to uncover the return on investment of manufacturing credentials and provide manufacturers with a better understanding of how credentials can serve as an important resource in identifying skilled workers.

Find out more about Workcred's latest efforts on Access Dr. Swift's presentation.