All learning matters, wherever and however it’s obtained. To that end, all learning should count toward a credential, whether a degree, a certificate, an industry certification, a license, an apprenticeship completion, or a badge. We can achieve that by focusing on competencies – what a credential holder knows and is able to do. In this way, a learner can collect competencies throughout a lifetime of work and learning.

Corporation for a Skilled Workforce is in the fifth year of Connecting Credentials, a Lumina Foundation-funded national campaign to create a better credentialing system – one that is student-centered and learning-based. We are partnering with 100+ cosponsoring organizations and 3000+ stakeholders from around the country, who share our commitment to ensure educational quality; increase access; align industry, education and issuers of credentials; multiply the benefits of increased attainment; reduce social inequity; and foster individual progress that results in market-valued credentials. Improving the chaotic and disconnected credentialing system is a key mechanism for reaching Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025 – That 60% of Americans hold degrees, certificates or other high-quality post-secondary credentials by 2025, is essential to meeting our nation’s growing need for talent.

One concrete tool intended to promote transparency, portability and the use of competencies as currency is the Connecting Credentials Beta Credentials Framework. The Framework is an eight level reference tool, which levels competencies into knowledge, specialized skills, personal skills and social skills. The exercise results in a profile score that can then be aligned to job task descriptions or learning outcomes. The framework is content agnostic and offers a common way to compare all credentials in terms of the competencies holders of those credentials possess. This approach centers on the idea that we can and should “connect the dots” between degrees, certificates, certifications, and other credentials, making them all part of a shared way learners can communicate their competencies. The framework is currently being field-tested around the country by 20+ community colleges and other organizations and user groups are underway to refine the framework and produce the final version. Exploration is also underway to digitize the tool.

30+ Community and Technical colleges in the U.S. have tested the framework at their institutions and are using it to:

  • Benchmark curriculum against job descriptions in work with employers
  • Align industry certifications with certificates and degrees
  • Create a regional development approach within industries
  • Break down silos across progams

CSW has also worked intensively with over 50 community colleges across the country in evaluating or implementing federal TAACCCT grants. This work has focused on accelerating and increasing credential attainment, and more effectively engaging employers to better ensure the relevance and success of community college programs and delivery methods.

CSW has been a leading voice in competency-based credentialing for several years. Prior efforts have set the stage for our current work on Connecting Credentials. They include:

The CSW team leading this work is Co-Founder and Chair Larry Good, Senior Policy Associate Susan Lupo and Communications Director Katie Hall.