“The question confronting us now is this: What innovative solutions and public policy changes are needed to boldly develop and ensure a more skilled American workforce? We believe part of the solution is to establish a national workforce credentialing system.”
The above quote comes from a new ACT report, “Breaking New Ground: Building a National Workforce Skills Credentialing System.” The paper looks at the numerous issues facing workforce development and the US labor force and recommends a series of reforms, namely a standard credentialing system that’s employer- and data-driven and has a common language.
This follows closely with the work EMSI Consulting has done in recent years, specifically in analyzing the Greater Milwaukee region and various Metro Chicago areas using the O*NET system and EMSI’s comprehensive dataset.
To start, the ACT report outlines five critical workforce development trends:
- The middle skills gap
- Lack of “foundational” skills in the US workforce
- A demand for more skills, education
- Misalignment and lack of credentials compared to the requirements of the economy
- Uncertainty from adults about how to get more training.
With these issues in mind, the authors call for a national credentialing system to replace the “multiple credentialing systems for documenting occupational knowledge and skills with insufficient crosswalks or linkages.” (p. 17).
The presence of a workforce credential within a national, layered credentialing system enables a wide variety of stakeholders to adopt a standard methodology for “upskilling” the U.S. workforce and to increase the global competitiveness of our workforce, which research so aptly indicates is falling further behind other nations.
One of the most powerful concepts developed to systemize the way both educators and employers should be approaching a trained workforce has been advanced by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Institute, and other national trade organizations, such as the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). The Manufacturing Institute has developed a national skills certification system, which has been endorsed by the NAM, based upon a layered set of credentials, beginning with the foundational National Career Readiness Certificate and followed by increasingly more-targeted occupational and job-specific skills credentials.
In regard to benchmarks and data, the report says the credentialing system must be data-driven (p. 20):
At the local and regional level, businesses seek a more evidenced-based hiring model. State-level workforce and economic development agencies are increasingly citing that they do not have a clear sense of the skill level or preparedness of workers in their state. This lack of clarity due to inadequate data and workforce benchmarks inhibits the ability of states, and ultimately the nation, to accelerate progress around “upskilling” our workforce.
ACT argues community colleges will play a central role in developing a credential system, both in providing training and guidance/assessments.
For the full report, click here.