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Industry Credentials: a Valuable Student Pathway to Success

Pilot Program Studies Matching Up Industry Credential Attainment, Enrollment and Degree Data to Identify New Learner Pathways

by NSC Blog | Oct 29, 2020 | Electronic Transcript Exchange, Postsecondary Data Partnership, StudentTracker, StudentTracker for High Schools, Transcript & Data Exchange Services |

Part 1 of a 4-part series

Identifying quality industry credentials provides valuable information on alternative education and career pathways.

In a four-part blog series, discover how the National Student Clearinghouse is shining a light on a segment of workforce education and learning that has previously not been well understood by adding industry credential information to the Clearinghouse’s data. 

The Clearinghouse is continually working to provide better data that empowers education and workforce organizations to make good decisions. Our goal is to show the most holistic view of how learning is happening across the country and to represent this evolution accurately for the education and workforce communities.

As part of that effort, the Clearinghouse recently shared an overview of one of its current initiatives:  the Industry Certification Education and Performance Data System. This pilot project is the result of more than four years of effort.

“This work enables the Clearinghouse to extend our longitudinal reporting services to provide insights to education and workforce stakeholders about these alternative learner pathways.”

Vanessa Brown
Managing Director, Strategic Initiatives, National Student Clearinghouse

To make it a reality, the Clearinghouse has received generous support from the Lumina Foundation and is working in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)/Manufacturing Institute (MI) and their national manufacturing organization partners. The pilot program’s goal is to study how industry credential attainment could be matched with, and incorporated into, the enrollment and degree information that the Clearinghouse collects.

The Clearinghouse collects enrollment and degree information from more than 3.600 colleges and universities nationwide, covering 99 percent of the students enrolled in postsecondary education. However, the Clearinghouse’s data is focused on enrollment for credit leading to a postsecondary degree, like an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree.

By contrast, industry credentials are often earned in a noncredit, continuing education format. Thus, there is a significant gap in tracking the outcomes of people who gain industry credentials outside of the for-credit postsecondary system.

This pilot program focused on the manufacturing industry as NAM has been the leader in promoting the use of certifications to help close the talent supply gap. Here is what the industry certification education and performance data system pilot program has done so far:

  • Partnered with NAM to pilot this initiative with their members including the American Welding Society, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills, and the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council to define a standard by which the Clearinghouse could incorporate data related to manufacturing industry certifications.
  • Talked with colleges and universities, secondary institutions, and state education organizations to find out what they wanted to know about industry credential attainment.
  • Added student-level credential attainment data fields to StudentTracker for Colleges and Universities Premium service. This data will be added to other Clearinghouse services like StudentTracker for High Schools and the Postsecondary Data Partnership in the future.

The pilot program’s first year focused on establishing and refining the industry credential intake process. During the second year, the Clearinghouse focused on providing reports back to the manufacturing organizations, tying industry credentials to the Clearinghouse’s education and degree information.

Preliminary results have offered an opportunity for empirical research into the effectiveness of obtaining certain types of certifications within manufacturing. Through this workforce pilot, the Clearinghouse is helping to close the skills gap by bringing the workforce community and the education community closer together.

Email the Industry Credentials team at industrycredentials@studentclearinghouse.org to learn more!

How the Industry Certification and Education Performance Data System will work