As any traveler will tell you, nothing aids progress so much as a good map. That’s a lesson more than 30 funders are learning firsthand as they explore ways to create a more seamless system of education and workforce training.

In fall 2018, these funding organizations joined a discussion hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Schmidt Futures, and Lumina Foundation to talk about the growing number of efforts to connect the education and work marketplace and the growing number of requests for funding these efforts. None of us understood the totality of this work, how far along efforts were in meeting milestones, and the relationships among efforts. One outcome of the discussion was a commitment to map key initiatives with the goal of assisting funders as well as the initiatives to be able to answer questions such as: Who is working in this space? What are they working on? How fast is the work going? Are the various initiatives coordinating their work?

The first such map, the Guide to Key Initiatives for the Connected Learn and Work Ecosystem, was issued in January, based on information on more than 20 initiatives collected months earlier. Since many initiatives were making rapid progress and several new initiatives were funded in early 2019, we issued a second edition in March. And now, we’ve issued a third edition featuring 36 efforts. Clearly, this indicates still more progress toward the six goals identified as necessary to the creation of a more connected Learn-and-Work Ecosystem. Those goals are:

  • Build credential transparency infrastructure.
  • Accelerate ecosystem developments through alignment and alliances.
  • Create and implement technology, data, and standards to drive and connect systems.
  • Advance employer and workforce signaling for credential transparency.
  • Advance navigation tools, verifications, and quality assurance.
  • Expand messaging related to credential transparency.

“We hope that continuing to map key efforts in the learn and work marketplace will encourage more collaborative approaches, both by funders and those carrying out the work,” said Gayatri Agnew, senior director for “Over the next few years, thinking collectively may help us accelerate this work.”

“Technological advancements will continue to be a critical part of these developments,” added Jeanne Kitchens, Chief Technology Services Officer for Credential Engine. “Understanding the resources already in play can open up more opportunities to partner with others to help realize the vision of a connected learn-and- work ecosystem.”

One item of particular interest is that many of the initiatives featured in the Guide’s third edition focus on credentials other than traditional degrees.

“It’s noteworthy to see growing attention to efforts in non-degree credentials,” said Chauncy Lennon, Lumina’s vice president for the Future of Learning and Work. “This is testament to the recognition that non-degree credentials are important to the learn-and-work marketplace. We’re witnessing many more workers seeking more affordable credentials that are shorter and more versatile than traditional postsecondary degree programs. Understanding non-degree credentials is imperative to developing and accelerating solutions to the talent challenges facing our nation.”

Steve Crawford, research professor at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy, is managing one of the new efforts in the research area, the Nondegree Credentials Research Network. “The newfound attention to the potential for non-degree credentials such as certificates, certifications, apprenticeships, and badges to benefit workers who might not otherwise obtain an occupational credential is reflected in public policies that are facilitating the expansion of these programs,” Crawford said. “Attention to the effects of occupational regulation through licensure is also increasing. We need scholars to study these developments and inform policymakers and practitioners of their impact and potential.”

We believe that the guide will grow as stakeholders continue the challenging, necessary work of improving the nation’s learn-and-work ecosystem. We cannot act alone. By definition, an ecosystem comprises interdependent components: our goal is to push the envelope further and faster to influence systemic change.

For more information, see the Learn-and-Work Ecosystem Guide.

For additional questions, contact Lumina’s Strategy Director for The Future of Learning and  Holly Zanville.

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