This summer, National Skills Coalition concluded its first Quality Postsecondary Credential Policy Academy with participation from six states: Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia. The academy supported state teams in defining quality non-degree credentials (using NSC’s consensus criteria), developing a policy agenda to increase the number of residents with quality credentials, and improving the data policies to support such efforts.
During the academy, states brought a range of stakeholders within and across agencies and engaged other external stakeholders like training providers and advocates to tailor quality assurance criteria to the unique needs and circumstances of their states. Their work over the past 18 months was particularly timely as states looked to develop quality training programs in response to COVID-19’s impact on the economy. By setting quality standards, states can make smart policy and budget decisions that will support an inclusive economic recovery.
Here is a brief overview of what these states were able to accomplish:
“This work has been both timely and forward looking,” said Nick Moore, the coordinator of the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation, which led the cross-agency team in Alabama. “It has set us up to do a lot deeper work on credential quality and transparency and rethinking what a competency- and demand-driven workforce system looks like.”
“We were able to develop a North Star with the number of stakeholders in this work,” said Randall Brumfield, the Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning and Student Success at the Louisiana Board of Regents. “It was rewarding to have a common understanding and value around our credentials of value definition.”
Randy Stamper, an Assistant Vice Chancellor at VCCS, said that “[t]he true realization of the work that we have all done will be achieved when we get Pell for these short-term programs [like the JOBS Act] because we know that if you put the right criteria in place, if you identify and fund the right programs and the right credentials, then it does lead people out of poverty, and it does improve lives.”
Credentials are a key component of state postsecondary attainment goals and COVID-19 responses, helping workers obtain better jobs and serving to reconnect them to further postsecondary education and training opportunities.
States defining quality non degree credentials (NDCs) and having a quality assurance system is important for workers, because it helps them save time and money by helping them understand their options and the likely employment and earning outcomes associated with specific programs. It also helps businesses who need to identify talent and address emerging skill needs. It’s important for education and training providers in order to have clear guidance on which credentials should be offered and how to think about designing new credentials that align with labor market needs. For state policymakers, quality non-degree credentials can also provide a range of options for improving economic opportunities for residents and businesses.
Establishing quality NDC criteria can help align and support performance accountability under federal workforce and education laws. By adopting a quality NDC definition, states can protect against increasing equity gaps by ensuring people of color, women, those with disabilities, and other underserved populations are not steered toward low-quality NDCs.
Thanks to the success of these state efforts, and the generous support of the Lumina Foundation, NSC will be hosting another 15-month quality credential policy academy with up to 8 states in 2021-2022.