Workforce Training

Workforce Training

Finding meaningful work does not only mean earning a bachelor’s degree. College certificates and industry certifications offer high school graduates pathways to excel.

Community college are the main engines of workforce training in the United States. In addition to offering associate degree programs, two-year colleges provide a range of shorter-term training for adults who want into the labor market or opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills for better jobs and promotions. These programs can lead people to certificates and industry-recognized certifications that sometimes award academic credit and are often aimed at rapid employment in new fields or job advancement. Examples include Cisco or Google IT certifications, customized training delivered for specific employers through noncredit workforce divisions, and other noncredit professional development and occupational instruction. 

Some of the more popular fields are accounting, healthcare, information technology (IT), manufacturing, and project management. Many certifications offer credible evidence of real accomplishment to potential employers. The IT field has a range of certifications ranging from networking to security, cloud computing, and database administration. Various levels of certifications exist, with higher levels proving most valuable in the labor market. 

There also are a range of certificates available that can open the door to good jobs. The most sought-after undergraduate certificate is a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certificate. The MTA is designed to certify basic computer and software skills. This credential benefits people looking for work as computer technicians, programmers, or software developers. Vocational certificates result from training in specific fields, such as law enforcement, medical coding, or welding. Many undergraduate certificates lead to good jobs, allow people to explore potential careers, and can be more cost-effective than enrolling in degree programs. 

Workforce programs that have the best returns lead to career advancement. Firms and nonprofits continually seek prospective employees with specialized skills and education. High-demand fields do not always require college degrees but often demand education or training after high school. Computer programming is among the faster-growing sectors with a need for entry-level professionals who can code, design websites, and develop IT applications. In healthcare, positions such as medical assistant, dental assistant, and emergency medical technician require some post-high school training or certificate-based programs. Many manufacturing jobs offer apprenticeship programs or certifications, including electronics fabrication, machining, and welding. 

Government agencies, trade unions, private companies, and online programs also offer short-term programs. Government programs, such as those offered through the U.S. Department of Labor, provide grants to organizations that deliver educational services and resources to the unemployed and underemployed people seeking to refresh their skills in today’s job market.  

More on Workforce Training

Short-term credentials leading to pay increases fell, highlighting the need for programs to pay off.

Thirty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, saw declines in the share of residents having industry certifications and college certificates with significant wage premiums. This unusual decline in short-term credentials, surfacing in Lumina Foundation’s update of A Stronger Nation today, highlights the importance of paying attention to the labor market payoff of such credentials. Short-term programs like these are often alternatives to associate and bachelor’s programs.

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