Our higher education system focuses on students who go to college, leaving the 55% of students who don’t get a college degree with a significant disadvantage in their careers. For those 2.8 million 18 year olds per year who don’t go on to receive a college degree, many of them go on to excel in their jobs and deliver value to the economy. The problem is that their career paths are often limited by a glass ceiling from not having a college degree.
People should have the opportunity to succeed in their career based on their skills, knowledge and experience and not be artificially limited because their path didn’t include going to college. We created the Micro Credential program to legitimize the value of students who joined the workforce instead of attending college. The Micro Credential program certifies the skills and knowledge that people gain during their career and awards them with credentials that formally recognizes the competencies and knowledge the worker has gained through real life experience rather than in the classroom.
For example, if after high school an individual works in an electronics factory assembling parts, over the course of a few years they can develop an understanding of how electronic devices are put together. Then they could earn a Micro Credential to certify their knowledge of electronics assembly. If the person then wanted to go into electronics repair, a potential employer could understand the applicant’s level of electronics knowledge and better judge their suitability for the position.
We are going to create a non profit organization to oversee granting Micro Credentials. This organization will specify the requirements for specific Micro Credentials. Individuals will then be able to apply for the Micro Credential by taking an assessment or otherwise submitting evidence of their skills. Where necessary, applications for a Micro Credential will be reviewed by subject matter experts in the appropriate career field. Over time, these Micro Credentials would gain the legitimacy of a degree by being very outcomes-focused and clear about the skills learners have mastered. The individual will be able to include it on resumes and job applications, and anyone needing verification of the credential can contact the organization.
Access and breaking the cycle of poverty
There are numerous factors that limit a high school graduate’s chances of pursuing a college degree. Low income students are significantly less likely to get a college degree, with only 22% of low SES students attaining an associate’s degree or higher by the age of 25.
As individuals without college degrees advance in their careers, they often hit a barrier where the next level job lists a degree as a requirement. Many employers will list a degree as a requirement and screen candidates for degrees. This barrier exists even for those with the appropriate knowledge and skills for the job.
Our Micro Credential system will enable students who traditionally have less access to college gain formal recognition for the skills and knowledge they have gained through experience / outside of academia. For students who come from poverty and don’t go to college, this means that they have more opportunities to advance their careers to move out of poverty when they are adults. This is an important step towards ending the cycle of poverty where people who grow up in poverty are limited in their opportunities to escape it as adults.
Legitimacy for all career paths
One of the results of a degree or credential is to signify the importance and value of the person to society. Through limiting degrees to certain paths and careers society signals the worth of certain careers and people. This is a problem in a society and economy where everyone’s contribution is important.
Everyone deserves to derive self worth from their work, and the way we certify people’s importance shouldn’t be reserved for people who have college degrees. Micro Credentials are a way to provide official recognition of people’s value to society no matter what position they hold.
Education attainment - National Center for Educational Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_104.65.asp
Population size - United States Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf
Low SES students - National Center for Educational Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_104.91.asp