Organizations are looking at candidates with alternative education and skills to fill gaps.
Americans began reconsidering postsecondary education when the pandemic began more than three years ago. According to Credly CEO Jonathan Finkelstein, enrollment in short-term credential classes in early 2020 increased by 70 percent over the same period in 2019, up to almost 8 million. Concurrently, freshman college enrollment dropped by 16 percent.
The transition to alternative, nondegree credentials—a wide array of credentials not recognized as standalone formal educational qualifications by national education authorities—has endured into 2023. Employers have noticed and are experiencing challenges in assessing candidates with those credentials, according to a survey from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and Collegis Education. While almost half of the 510 employers surveyed said they were unsure about the quality of education, 42 percent said the same of candidates with nondegree credentials on their resumes.
The situation also puts higher education institutions in a difficult spot because they're no longer the sole source of education. Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which oversees a dozen public colleges, is creating a credential registry to help employers find the best candidates.
"The State System is redesigning itself to meet the needs of today's learners and provide a pipeline of talented people that employers desperately want, and the credential registry is one important part of that process," says Dan Greenstein, PASSHE chancellor. "Credentials add value to your resume by demonstrating to employers that you have the education and latest skills to do the job. Students and job seekers will be able to use the registry to understand the pathways to earn credentials that open doors to new and higher-paying jobs."
The registry also aims to help the state of Pennsylvania specifically; it is scheduled to go live in 2024 and will include badges, certificates, and industry certifications. Sixty percent of jobs in the state require some postsecondary education, but only 51 percent of the workforce meets those standards.
Despite those challenges, 74 percent of respondents to the UPCEA/Collegis Education survey either agreed or strongly agreed that candidates with nondegree credentials have helped their organizations fill skills gaps. Additionally, 71 percent of those employers said they are becoming more accepting of the credentials in lieu of four-year degrees.