Success Stories: Midwest

Why We’re Committed

The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), in collaboration with Credential Engine and through a grant from Ascendium Education Group, is working with 12 states in the region to ensure people have access to clearer, more comprehensive information about high-value credentials that lead to high-demand jobs. Much of this work will be accomplished through the continued growth of a regional community of practice called the Midwest Credential Transparency Alliance (MCTA). Through the MCTA, leaders in the Midwest will ensure that all Midwesterners can discover pathways to credentials from colleges and universities, technical skills and training providers, and other workforce education programs. A key outcome of the MCTA will be publishing additional credentials from the Midwest region to the Credential Registry. This effort will better align education and training with workforce development in the region, which helps employers better understand the skills and competencies signified by credentials, while also giving an estimated 35 million Midwestern workers more options for high-quality education, training, and employment options.

Collaborating Agencies

  • Midwestern Higher Education Compact

The Value of Regional Credential Transparency

The work of describing and sharing information about credentials is difficult and too often falls on isolated stakeholders. In the past, workers, employers and education and training providers have struggled to identify, compare, and connect the more than 150,000 credentials offered in the Midwest. Gaining information about credentials also has depended on personal social networks, wealth, and access to institutions, which compounds structural inequities. 

The MCTA grew out of an effort in 2021 to change that by making cost, duration, outcomes, and additional critical information about credentials more transparent in the 12 MHEC member states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Through the alliance’s work, states will publish information to the Credential Registry and map those credentials to the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL). Each state is creating a team of representatives from higher education agencies/systems, K-12 agencies, workforce development agencies, and governors’ offices that will break down data silos and create a linked data ecosystem. 

Credential transparency and the CTDL reduce barriers to information and make opportunities more equitably attainable. The MCTA’s effort will make it easier for Midwesterners to learn about credentials and discover the range of opportunities for learning, advancement, and meaningful careers.

Creating Pathways to High-Value, High-Quality Credentials

In mid-2021, the MCTA Pathway Action Team identified 692 career pathways in the Midwest and analyzed their properties based on publicly available information. Almost all contained credentials with common components, including courses, occupations and jobs, and competencies. Despite these consistencies, almost no pathway referenced out-of-state offerings. And nine out of 10 used unstructured text — either PDFs or webpages — to communicate information, making it difficult for users to compare one program to another. The team discovered that it is possible to describe all of the pathways using the CTDL and publish them to the Registry. It verified that functionality through tests with a cybersecurity pathway in North Dakota and a nursing pathway in Indiana.

In late 2021 and early 2022, the team focused on multiple action items to support publishing of all pathways and pathway components to the Registry. The action team then will develop interstate pathway connections by organizing and promoting meaningful connections among emerging pathways, beginning with cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles. If the states across the Midwest use the Registry consistently, multiple stakeholders stand to benefit: 

  • Students and learners can see all of their options for securing and advancing their career. 
  • Workers can explore how their earned credentials and achievements connect to existing and emerging pathways.
  • Education and training providers can communicate that the credentials they offer are connected into valuable pathways. 
  • Curriculum developers can contextualize their instructional, assessment, and credentialing innovations. 
  • Employers can articulate specific job requirements, competencies, and career progressions using the same language as credential providers. 
  • State agencies can promote student success via credential connections within their state and across the region.