Collect and report data on credentials and their value in the marketplace. Not all credentials are created equally, as some actually lead learners toward lower paying jobs. Currently, only about half of states collect information on many credentials such as certificates and industry certifications, and thus have limited data on which credentials are most effective for wage growth. Credential transparency is critical for policymakers to make data-informed decisions about workforce and education investments. Many states are spearheading efforts to identify and then promote credentials of value in the marketplace. With the help of labor market data, states can begin this process by building a cross-sector, priority industry-recognized credential list spanning the education and workforce system.

State Program Examples

  • Indiana

    Developed A Statewide Credential Registry

    Under Indiana Governor Holcomb’s leadership, Indiana has emerged as a leading state in the Credential Engine initiative to build a public registry of credentials in a linked, open-data format. To date, the state has published information from its public 2- and 4-year institutions and is expanding to include private institutions and non-credit providers. This new data resource will be the foundation for new state and national tools and applications designed to help individuals easily navigate educational opportunities aligned to their career aspirations.

  • Connecticut

    Requires Skill and Competency Attainment Transparency

    In 2019, Connecticut Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 4 requiring the state to “bring transparency to credentials conferred by public higher education institutions by translating credentials wherever possible to the skills and competencies developed to attain those credentials”.

Facilitate the use of high-value, industry-recognized credentials in workforce training programs. In addition to building a registry of credentials, states can take their high-value credential identification work a step further by incentivizing the use of high-value credentials that are the industry-accepted standard. A number of states are implementing this strategy by ensuring that eligible parities listed on the state Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) include recognized credentials. States can consider further building on this work by enabling priority industry credentials to count for postsecondary credit or hours and making high-value credential attainment count in accountability systems.

State Program Examples

  • Minnesota

    Requires Eligible Training Providers to Provide Industry Recognized Credentials

    To facilitate the identification and use of industry-recognized credentials in training programs, Minnesota has issued policy guidance for provider eligibility on their WIOA-manded Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) that requires that programs listed lead to industry-recognized credentials.

  • Alabama

    Links Credentials to In-Demand Occupations

    To facilitate the identification and use of industry-recognized credentials that are linked to in-demand occupations in training programs, Alabama established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways (ACCCP), a public-private entity that identifies credentials of value through dialogue with employers. The state uses this information to ensure that state investments target programs that lead to these credentials. The Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) includes a description of each eligible program, designation of industry-recognized certificate, and program performance.

  • New Jersey

    Requires Public Works Contractors to Recognize Credentials

    In 2018, New Jersey Governor Murphy signed into law a requirement that public works contractors must certify participation in a DOL-approved apprenticeship program prior to receiving a contractor registration certificate. The law also requires that apprenticeship programs include training for every classification of worker a contractor employs on a public works jobsite. State contractors and vendors have an enormous capacity to conduct on-the-job training which can result in accumulated credentials for education and training. Requiring state contractors to offer an educational benefit ensures that as new training and apprenticeship programs are developed, workers are obtaining credentials which are industry-recognized and portable to future work.

  • Connecticut

    SkillUp CT

    The Governor’s Workforce Council expanded access to Metrix Learning licenses and purchased license to 180Skills for those receiving unemployment insurance through SkillUpCT. These platforms allow eligible residents to enroll in short-term training tracks that lead to more than 100 industry certifications. In 2020, the state utilized federal CARES Act funding to provide free training for displaced people seeking quality job opening with in-demand industries, including supportive services, individualized job coaching and short-term credential attainment through aligned education and training providers

Create accelerated credential pathways for returning veterans by recognizing equivalent military training. The state supports returning veterans and their spouses in transitioning back to the civilian labor market by identifying and then removing barriers to recognition of occupation-specific training completed as part of military service. 

State Program Examples

  • Rhode Island

    Armed Forces Requirement

    In 2013, Rhode Island enacted a law requiring licensing boards to accept education, training, or service completed by a member of the armed forces or National Guard.

Incentivize attainment of industry-recognized credentials in K-12 education. Without clear incentives for attainment of industry-valued credentials, schools may not prioritize pursuit of high-demand credentials. 24 states have introduced in their accountability system student attainment of industry-recognized credentials as indicators of college and career readiness within their ESSA plans. In addition, 13 states have developed incentive policies to reward the attainment of credentials within high school or at community and technical colleges.

State Program Examples

  • Multi-State

    24 states: Industry Credentials in ESSA Plans

    24 states consider student attainment of industry-recognized credentials as indicators of college and career readiness in their ESSA plans.

  • Kansas

    School District Payments

    To promote credentials of value, Kansas uses state funding levers to incentivize schools to grow credential attainment. In 2016, legislation was passed to offer school districts a $500 bonus for each high school student that graduates with a credential on the state priority list. 

  • Kentucky

    Measuring Performance by Credential Attainment

    Policymakers in Kentucky enacted an accountability measure to determine which industry certifications are recommended for the recognized statewide list of credentials. To develop this list, the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), uses statewide workforce data and collaborates with industry leaders to determine which are practical, relevant, and align with high-demand career pathways. Kentucky then applies a policy of weighting industry-recognized credentials that are classified as high demand at 1.25 points in its accountability system rather than 1.0 for all other certifications.

Empower individuals to document, secure and share evidence of lifelong learning through a digital profile. States have an important role to play in helping individuals understand how to use their credentials to market themselves to potential employers. A common lexicon is one strategy toward building credential transparency, and helps users compare programs, evaluate outcomes, and understand the impact of investments in public and private training. When adopting this common language, experts stress that credentials must be informed by the real-time needs of employers in order to increase efficiency among existing programs. Many experts also agree that as individuals are required to obtain more credentials, one’s digital profile and transcripts should be non-proprietary to an institution, and instead belong to the person regardless of where one works.

State Program Examples

  • Alabama

    A One-Stop Platform Partnership with Credential Engine

    In 2019, Alabama Governor Ivey announced a collaboration with Credential Engine, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to credential data transparency and literacy. Alabama plans to develop a one-stop platform to house longitudinal data, which will operate as a virtual resume, or “student backpack”, to signal to employers the credentials carried by individuals. The Office of the Governor also is working with employers, higher education professionals and community leaders to publish to the statewide registry, credential data to enhance learners’ access to understanding career pathways throughout the state.

  • New Mexico

    Digital Badging

    In New Mexico, a collaboration between Fab Lab Hub and the Departments of Economic Development, Workforce Solutions, and Education, along with New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership have successfully supported the development of a statewide digital badging program. In 2019, the New Mexico Department of Economic Development provided $20,000 in funding for the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) to create a Lab Safety certification for 3D Printing as well as laser and CNC machining to up-skill LANL employees and train statewide workers for positions at the three national labs located in New Mexico as well as at commercial companies. Piloted at Fab Lab Hubs’ facility at Santa Fe Community College, Digital Badges were issued through the continuing education department and will be expanded to other colleges, high schools, alternative education programs, fab labs and makerspaces in 2020.  These digital badges, which are micro-credentials that adhere to the international OpenBadges standards, allow for individuals to earn a wide variety of certifications for individual skills and competencies ranging from 3D Printing molds for jewelry designers to Fabricating Props For The Film Industry.  The New Mexico badges can be earned in an average of 6 weeks, at an average cost of $250 and empower individuals to acquire new competencies continuously throughout their lives.  The individual badges can also be stacked into Master Badges for jobs such as a Master 3D Printing Operator or Master Robotics Repair Technician.  A master badge can usually be attained for a few thousand dollars over a period of about 6 months. The pilot saw increased enrollment in the digital badge program, 30% of people who attained a badge were placed in new jobs, 30% were upskilled in existing jobs, and 20% used the skills to start a new business. The remaining badge-earners took the classes for their own lifelong learning. While this initiative was led primarily at the local level, the State assisted in the convening of stakeholders to promote the program among educators, employers and policy makers, including via a state-wide Summit in Fall 2019.

  • California


    The California Community College system uses an online platform called LaunchPath to assess students’ learned skills and to display “skill badges” on their public profile when they apply for jobs. This technology is designed to facilitate better work-based learning matches between students and employers, and to empower students to retain ownership of their competencies.

  • Multi-State


    BlockCerts is an open standard for creating, issuing, viewing, and verifying blockchain-based certificates. These digital records are registered on a blockchain, cryptographically signed, tamper-proof, and shareable between individuals and employers. BlockCerts have emerged as an open source way to issue and validate credential attainment, so that individuals can own and communicate demonstrated competencies over time. States may look to partner with private sector organizations to make available these digital records between institutions and employers.

Help individuals communicate previously learned skills by adopting prior learning policies. The state adopts policies that enable more workers to receive credit for, and clearly communicate, their skills by awarding credentials for existing knowledge and competencies. Since 2016, at least 19 states have passed legislation relating to credit for prior learning.

State Program Examples

  • Missouri

    Requires all Public Institutes of Higher Education to Recognize Prior Learning

    In 2012, the Missouri legislature passed legislation requiring the statewide higher education coordinating board to award associate’s degrees to students who have completed requirements even if they completed those requirements across multiple institutions. The policy requires that a student who has completed at least 15 credits at a 2-year institution who transfers to a 4-year institution and proceeds to earn sufficient credit must be granted an associates degree from the 2-year institution. The Missouri Department of Higher Education received funding from the Lumina Foundation to develop a statewide communication and technology strategy to ensure that as many students as possible are able to take advantage of this opportunity.  States could follow a similar model by requiring their public institutions facilitate reverse transfers, providing credit for prior learning and informing individuals what credit they are eligible for.  This recognition may allow students to work in higher-quality jobs while they work towards a higher degree or if they choose to pause or terminate their academic pursuits.

  • Multi-State

    Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium

    The Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC) was launched in 2014 by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education to expand educational opportunities for Registered Apprenticeship (RA) graduates. Consortium members are U.S.-based 2- and 4-year community colleges that agree to accept the college credit value of the RA completion certificate, as recommended by a recognized third-party evaluator, for the purposes of facilitating the transfer of credit between member colleges. Because RA programs employ an “earn while you learn" model that combines on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction, students are encouraged to pursue further education by minimizing duplicative training. States could develop a similar model by convening institutions to evaluate the transfer value of prior learning experiences accepted by public education institutions. If states can develop a system that effectively values prior learning, workers will be able to enter the labor market more quickly, without duplicative training and employers will have access to a wider pool of qualified candidates.

  • Multi-State

    Western Governors University (WGU)

    Western Governors University (WGU) is a competency-based, online university catering specifically to the adult student population looking to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The university was created in 1995 by 19 U.S. governors wanting to break the mold of traditional higher education and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). There are six state-affiliated universities including Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, though which WGU enrolls students from all 50 states. WGU’s unique curriculum offers students the opportunity to earn degrees through demonstration of competencies, and at a personalized learning pace, and to receive credit for prior learning. 

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