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CTE Month Blog Series – To Help CTE Thrive, We Need a Credential Data Map

By: Carrie Samson, Credential Engine

Last week’s blog highlighted Advance CTE’s take on what states are doing to help career and technical education (CTE) students prepare for the workforce. This week, we’ll take a deeper dive into what credential data means here at Credential Engine and how CTE can benefit from a truly transparent system.

Modern education and training has evolved, and CTE students are entering high-tech, high-growth fields like healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing. Their options for training are also expanding—with opportunities to blend learning experiences online, in the classroom, and in the workplace. Yet, the sheer number of offerings can be overwhelming and create confusion for students and guidance counselors looking for program information, CTE programs trying to reach new student markets, as well as employers trying to understand what potential employees know and can do based on their credentialing paths.

In order to help CTE students accurately understand and evaluate their training options, CTE programs connect to the right students, as well as help employers better identify ideal job candidates, we need a comprehensive map to the credentialing landscape. Credential Engine is building this map through the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL), the Credential Registry, the Credential Finder, and the open apps marketplace.

Every good map has a key so the reader can have a standard to compare distances, identify major cities from capitals, and understand where things are in relation to one another. The CTDL provides the standards and key for Credential Engine’s tools and platforms. As the “key,” the CTDL provides the terms and definitions that are used to describe credential data—allowing an apples-to-apples comparison between two credentials that may sound the same, but ultimately provide very different skillsets or have different assessment protocols. For CTE, having a common language to compare credentials will allow students to efficiently weigh their credentialing pathway options and programs to demonstrate their value.

A map also provides a standard place to look for geographic information. Similarly, the Credential Registry serves as the standard location where data on all types of credentials (including CTE) is collected and connected. Launched at the end of 2017, the Credential Registry has collected over 2,000 credentials. Since we estimate that there are closer to 350,000 credentials in the U.S. alone, Registry still has a long way to go; but thankfully its cloud-based structure means that it will be able to expand to meet any capacity required.

Finally, different maps can either be broad or zero in on different cities or countries. To search for general information within the Registry, Credential Engine has developed the Credential Finder. If you’re looking for something more specific, the open applications marketplace allows outside groups to build these customized search apps to pull “maps” of only the relevant data they need from the Registry. CTE organizations would be able to build applications that could help guidance counselors assist students interested in a CTE pathway identify what combinations of credentials will lead students to their preferred jobs or employers. Similarly, employers of CTE students will be better equipped to identify the credentials and credentialing programs that are meeting their needs—putting them in a better position to build stronger partnerships to help graduates transition from classroom to career.

CTE students are looking to take on the future of work with skills and competencies that employers desperately need; but under the current system employers can’t find these students, credentialing programs can’t reach these students, and guidance counselors can’t effectively determine which programs would be the best fit for a student’s particular needs. To make this a reality, we must equip students, employers, guidance counselors, and others with the map they need to figure out their path forward. Credential Engine is building that map with the help of our publishing partners. With a transparent credentialing landscape and Credential Engine’s map, CTE students, guidance counselors, and employers will be able to find each other—and their way.

To learn more about how to publish CTE credentials to the Registry, please visit our publishing page to set up an account.