In today’s economy, college-level knowledge and skills are vital to finding and keeping good jobs. But millions of adults, including some who barely earn enough to get by, lack realistic paths to earning certificates and certifications that could help them. Many working adults could benefit from programs that don’t take as long as earning a college degree. Certificates, which community colleges often award, and industry-recognized certifications, which typically represent in-demand skills, can help people reach higher rungs on the ladder to economic opportunity and social mobility.
Most certificates are based on academic credit and offer pathways to further learning, including college degrees. Lumina recognizes certificates with economic value that are not educational “dead ends” toward the 60 percent attainment goal.
Getting marketable certifications could help more people obtain good-paying jobs. Unfortunately, the learning that certifications represent is not always as transparent as that of degrees and certificates that colleges and universities award. As a result, the paths forward from certifications to degrees and other credentials are not obvious. The national system of transparent credentials that Lumina and its partners are working toward will clarify the learning that certifications represent.
Lumina and its partners are dedicated to ensuring people who are Black, Hispanic, and Native American who earn certificates and industry certifications can position themselves for greater economic opportunity and social mobility. Indeed, certificates can be part of a “credential ladder” that motivates first-generation students to pursue more education more quickly than they otherwise would. People of color disproportionately earn certificates and industry certifications – and while this can be a good start, for reasons of justice and fairness it should not be their final destination.
We also work to bring opportunities to vulnerable and marginalized adults, including prisoners. We believe everyone released from prison should have a quality credential to ease the transition back to society and reduce the risks of returning to prison.
The widespread availability of credentials signifying that people possess clearly defined knowledge and skills will benefit adults with military training, immigrants who have pursued education in their native countries, and workers trained on the job. What people learn through programs offered by libraries, museums, and social service organizations – as well as through volunteering and self-guided study – also should count toward credentials.