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Education Design Lab and Credential Engine partner to build equitable pathways

Education Design Lab (the Lab) and Credential Engine announce a partnership to support community college systems and related state agencies in their efforts to prepare for the heightened expansion of skills-based learning and hiring. This partnership will help multiple stakeholders — but especially learners and workers — navigate the growing credential landscape and embark on paths with strong workforce outcomes.

There are nearly 1 million credentials currently off­ered across the country, a significant portion of which are found in community colleges. While each credential represents an important opportunity for people to get ahead, the current landscape is not easily navigable. Not to mention how hard it can be for people to identify which credentials equip them with the necessary skills required by today’s workforce. With so many credentials to choose from — and without widespread adoption of standards for comparing and evaluating them—people get lost and lose out on opportunity. Learner-earners need better information to navigate pathways to credentials, into the workforce, and toward their goals.

Credential Engine has partnerships with 29 states and regions to provide more equitable access to information about credentials, skills, and pathways. These partners are working toward credential transparency and the shared benefits that all stakeholders get from a landscape where all credentials, their associated skills, and the outcomes they lead to are public, easily accessible, and actionable so that credentials can be better understood and pursued based on what it takes to earn them, what they represent, and the jobs they can lead to. Credential transparency gets people to their desired destinations more easily, efficiently, and equitably.

Credential transparency is made possible by technology such as the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) — a common language that allows stakeholders to catalog, organize, and compare credentials. Stakeholders who use the CTDL to map their credentials and related outcomes are encouraged to add that information to the public Credential Registry so that it can be openly available for anyone, anytime, anywhere to understand credentials.

The Lab is working with 24 community colleges across the country to launch “micro-pathways” that are designed to make learners’ skills digitally visible to employers who may want to hire them. Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage. By combining this work with the principles of credential transparency, we can create more impactful pathways for learners and earners. 

This is why the Lab and Credential Engine are working together to build community college pathways that are connected using a shared data structure for credential and skill transparency.  

“We have a short window to get this right as states, employer groups, and learning providers rush to map skills into what will become the digital next-gen versions of transcripts, resumes, and job postings,” said Naomi Boyer, Executive Director of Digital Transformation at the Lab. “For this to benefit the learner and the worker in terms of expanded opportunity, we need to align on definitions and data standards, and our partnership with Credential Engine allows us to set examples of how the work of many partners comes together for the learner-earner.”

This partnership advances the work of the Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF, or the Fund for short), which is designed to meet the urgent demand from community college leadership for support to deliver skills-focused, market-driven education as regions struggle to mitigate the growing skills gap. The COVID-19 crisis, the massive disruption that has resulted, and the historic inequities in our labor market have forced higher education institutions to quickly adapt, clarify their value proposition, and create new revenue models. Six of the nation’s largest community colleges and systems joined the Fund’s first cohort, surpassing their goals by designing 30 micro-pathways in the first year (explore micro-pathways by sector). Four additional college systems are now joining the Fund. Each system or college received a startup award through the Fund, which is supported by over 15 foundations and investors.

Through the partnership with Credential Engine, these pathways include clear, transparent information that connects not only the pathways, but also other related credentials, skills, and learning and career opportunities. Going forward, the Fund is creating a roadmap for scale to reach every learner and worker in the country and give them a path to economic dignity.

Credential Engine plays a foundational role in this work by providing the linked open data structure that enables diverse stakeholders to create connected pathways. These pathways span community college courses, programs, competencies, credentials, industry certifications, the Lab’s 21st century skills micro-credentials, and occupational skills and requirements. Data from multiple sources is combined in order to create these pathways and connect them to additional state, regional, and occupational data. The Credential Registry enables stakeholders to publish and describe their pathway components using the shared data structure of the CTDL. Data in CTDL is also included in digital credentials issued to people progressing on these pathways, so that they can see their own achievements and understand how they fit into pathways and broader opportunities.

“Pathways without clear information about their meaning and value can be just another layer of confusion for learners. Together we are addressing the need for clarity, using linked open data as a public good,” said Deborah Everhart, Chief Strategy Officer at Credential Engine

The Lab and Credential Engine have shared determination to proactively respond to equity issues by closing opportunity gaps and elevating learner-earners through voice, visibility, and supportive open data infrastructure.

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