February 14, 2023
Short-term industry credentials are an underutilized, workforce development resource that may better position more Tennesseans for long-term career advancement.
These types of skills-based credentials are directly connected to industry and workforce needs with more flexibility, less time commitment, and often lower cost than a traditional degree pathway. Over half of jobs (56%) in Tennessee require some education past high school, but not a completed degree. Credentials play a pivotal role training individuals to fill the middle skills gap that prevents a significant number of Tennesseans from accessing in-demand and high-wage jobs.
Very few students in Tennessee have access to short-term credential training opportunities. Each year, less than 3% of high school students earn an industry credential statewide. This may be in part due to lack of explicit district incentives.
The Tennessee Department of Education currently encourages districts to provide industry credentials in fields such as Health Science, Agriculture, Graphic Design, IT and Construction, but currently no direct financial incentives are in place to assist schools with programmatic costs.
Other states such as Colorado and Florida have created credentialing incentives programs to increase awareness and reward school districts for industry credential completion. Florida saw the number of students earning certifications grow from 800 a year, to more than 45,000, five years after adopting an incentive program. Students earned 9,000 credentials in the first two years of Colorado’s incentive program.
Industry credentials offer more than access to future jobs. Nationally, 93% of students participating in these types of career-focused programs graduate high school. Of those, more than 75% of students go on to pursue a postsecondary education. As many Tennesseans are questioning the value of four-year degrees, post-secondary enrollment has significantly declined.
Short-term credentials offer untapped workforce development and education alignment opportunities statewide, in both secondary and postsecondary education settings. Embedding these opportunities into existing degree programs could serve a pivotal role in revitalizing public value in secondary and higher education.