Credential Transparency Initiative

From Chaos to Clarity:  A vision for the U.S. credentialing marketplace

Credentials can act as the critical connection that both job seekers and employers need to identify real knowledge and skills, and match them with appropriate opportunities. But today’s credentialing marketplace is a confusing maze of certifications, degrees, certificates, licenses, and badges and other micro-credentials that are difficult to interpret, translate, and differentiate. The past decade has seen an explosion in the number and variety of credentials, intensifying the confusion among employers, workers, job seekers, and students.

What do various credentials really mean?

What knowledge and skills assessment stand behind them? Are they truly valuable or worthwhile? How do they relate to each other . . . to learning and performance . . . to employability?

Is a collection of certifications equivalent to an associate’s degree? How many credits is a license worth? What does an undergraduate degree mean you can do? What are two years of military training worth? How does a badge from an online academy compare with an exam-based certification?

These are among the many questions that consumers and employers have to ask every day, and a lack of transparency in the current credentialing maze has fueled the confusion and created a buyer-beware environment. When every credential is unique to its issuer and impossible to compare with others, they all lose their value to job seekers and employers.

A coherent and transparent credentialing marketplace – one that all users can understand and use effectively – is essential to advancing the interests of the American workforce and strengthening the economy. This is the vision that drives the Credential Transparency Initiative.

Credential Transparency Initiative

George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy (GWIPP), Workcred – an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and Southern Illinois University (SIU) are leading the Credential Transparency Initiative to create greater coherence and transparency in the U.S. credentialing marketplace. Funded by Lumina Foundation, the initiative will develop common terms for describing key features of credentials; create a voluntary, web-based registry for sharing the resulting information; and test practical apps (software applications) for employers, students, educators, and other credential stakeholders.

The Credential Registry will allow users to see what various credentials represent in terms of competencies, transfer value assessment rigor, third-party approval status, and much more. The registry will include all kinds of credentials – from educational degrees and certificates to industry certifications, occupational licenses, and micro-credentials. The initiative will develop a Credential Directory app, which will allow registry users to access the websites of participating credential issuers, build customized directories of credentials based on their own criteria, and publish the results. Other apps in development are intended to enable employers to communicate their credentialing requirements; support the review of competency-based resumes; and assist colleges and certification organizations to develop and write more transparent and assessable competency statements based on employer requirements.

The goals are transparency and clarity, and to help align credentials with the needs of students, job seekers, workers and employers.

All Americans have a stake in a strong and effective labor market credentialing system:

Students, job-seekers, and workers who invest time and money in obtaining credentials need to know what jobs the credential will actually qualify them for, what bump in earnings they are likely to experience, and whether the credential is a stepping stone to higher levels. 

Young adults and career-changers need to know what credentials will get them where they want to go, how best to obtain them, and how to maximize the value of their skills and knowledge.

Employers need to know what skills and knowledge a particular credential represents, how it compares to other credentials, and whether its claims can be trusted.

Education, training, and credentialing organizations have an interest in the ability of the market to recognize the distinct features, quality, value, and effectiveness of the credentials they award.

Governments and the general public look to credentials for assurance that workers they rely upon have the knowledge and skills needed to practice their occupations. Government agencies need information on the value of credentials when determining which education and training providers are eligible for attendance by students, including veterans and the unemployed, who are receiving government financial assistance.

To learn more about the Credential Transparency Initiative and how your organization can become involved, or to offer comments, please contact us.