SIU helps create the world’s first centralized system for evaluating degrees, licenses and other professional credentials

By: Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – From certificates to degrees and beyond, the world offers untold varieties of credentials but there has been no easy way for students, employers, educators and others to evaluate what it all means — until now.

This month, Credential Engine, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., launched a new system to address this issue and Southern Illinois University Carbondale played a significant role in making it happen.

SIU integral to credential registry’s development

Jeanne Kitchens, director of SIU Center for Workforce Development, facilitated the development teams that created the Credential Registry infrastructure. Credential Registry is a cloud-based repository and services for credentialing information. Credentials include degrees, certificates, licenses, badges, apprenticeships, industry certifications, micro-credentials and similar earned recognitions.

Kitchens and her team also assisted in establishing the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL), a first-of-its-kind common language to describe the key features of credentials, credentialing organizations, quality assurance groups and other aspects.

Credential Engine also provides a platform for digital application development facilitating searches for specific credentialing information from the registry and an application programming interface tool that enables participating organizations to continuously upload current information.

Registry of credentials benefits students, employers, educators and more

The beneficiaries of this new voluntary registry are many, according to Kitchens and Carrie Samson, communications manager for Credential Engine. For example, students and their parents can see what which credentials are needed for various career pathways and compare the credentialing options easily based on key data points such as competencies and cost.

Prospective employers can use the registry to glean critical competency information from job applicants to determine who would best fulfill their workforce needs.

Educational and training institutions can better understand transfer value, track credentialing trends and monitor best practices to adjust their programming accordingly. As the registry and CTDL grow, so will their usefulness, developers say.

User interface makes reporting and finding credentials easy

The registry is set up much like hotel or flight comparison websites, so users can access and compare the information quickly and easily. Its search application, Credential Finder, is free and open to use by anyone looking for information about credentials.

“As jobs with specializations continue to grow, more employers, workers and students will benefit from having better and comparable credential and competency that matches up to job requirements,” Kitchens said. “Industries, such as healthcare, which is expected to grow 18 percent by 2026 and add 2.3 million jobs in the process, will have better and current information to positively impact talent development.”

More than 1,500 credentials have already been registered

Credential Engine was four years in the making, beginning as a research initiative and formally launching in 2016 with support provided by Lumina Foundation, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase and Co. SIU’s Center for Workforce Development was brought on as a consultant for the development project and Kitchens as the project manager.

Although participation is voluntary, the participants are already pouring in, Samson said. More than 170 organizations have already submitted in excess of 1,500 credentials for inclusion in the registry.

Universities, community colleges, business and industry associations, licensing boards, training organizations, certification bodies and more are involved. In addition, partnerships have been formed or are being established with states, including Indiana and New Jersey.

The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading American companies, formally announced that a number of their CEO members have already committed to using Credential Engine’s Registry data to meet their employment needs.

Registry plans to include 100,000 credentials by 2020

The goal is to have 50,000 credentials included by the end of 2018 and 100,000 by December 2019. Samson said that preliminary estimates indicate there are at least 300,000 credentials available in the United States today.

“By capturing this information and presenting the data in a common and comparable format, Credential Engine aims to bring transparency and credential literacy to the marketplace for the first time,” Kitchens said.

This piece originally appeared in the SIU News and can be found here.

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