From The Atlantic Monthly: Getting Credit for What You Know

February 9th, 2015

A range of job sectors are now offering certifications to students who pass tests that measure their competency in practical skills.  

by Tamar Jacoby

…The overwhelming majority of American high school students say they expect to go to college, and about 70 percent of graduates end up in a college classroom within two years. But for many, higher education is the equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle—they never come out, at least not with diplomas. Many students give up in the first year: about a quarter of those attending four-year schools and half of those who start community college. And the attrition continues until graduation day. The end result: Just 32 percent of Americans 25 and older have four-year diplomas, and just 10 percent have associate’s degrees. Meanwhile, nearly a fourth of the country’s workforce—more than 36 million adults—fall into the category “some college, no degree”…

…Welcome to the world of competency-based alternative credentials, sometimes known as occupational certifications. They’re increasingly common in many fields, including IT, advanced manufacturing, health care, the energy sector, even hospitality and retail…

…Employers are drawn to alternative credentialing for the same reason students are: The old system isn’t working for them. College degrees are proving less and less effective as a predictor of job performance. Survey after survey finds employers dissatisfied with the qualifications of job applicants. According to one recent study, two in five college grads lack the basic reasoning skills required for white-collar jobs. A broad range of industries—from advanced manufacturing and construction to finance and retail—complain about “skills mismatches.” And it’s no accident that even with 8.7 million Americans unemployed, roughly 5 million jobs stand empty in the U.S. today.

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