Study Shows Certifications Can Increase Worker Mobility
WorkCred, working with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, seeks to boost workforce quality by improving credentialing systems. Their mission is to ensure that credentials (including certifications) hold their value and impact, and to inform employers, workers educators, and governments on how to use credential effectively to fill their various workplace roles.
The new WorkCred study that I'll be discussing today is interesting, meaty, and incredibly informative material, so I’ll start by telling you what’s available, then tell you where studies focused their attention. Finally, I’ll summarize some of the findings of this new report, the latest in an ongoing series that’s been rolling out since 2020.
The latest study is titled Certification as Tools for Promoting Economic Mobility. It shows a publication date of March 2022 on its cover, as do several of the other reports in this series. The other four reports currently available include the following (all reports are PDF documents):
Understanding Certifications (December 2020)
Certifications: The Ideal, Reality and Potential (March 2022)
Together, this is a substantial body of work. Certification observers (and certified professionals) of all kinds should find this stuff useful, informative, and a terrific background for sharing information with others, especially those interested in certification as it relates to hiring and growing IT workers.
Why Is ANSI Involved?
It’s important to understand that ANSI has substantial skin in this game. The biggest clue to what’s going on is in the title of the accreditation report, which speaks directly to the ISO/IEC (and ANSI) 17024 standard. This is a standard whereby cert sponsors formally prove the rigor, value, currency, and use of best practices involved in creating and maintaining a certification.
Indeed, obtaining 17024 accreditation is a time-consuming and expensive proposition. I’ve talked to cert providers who’ve told me it took them between two and three years to get through the process and cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) to jump through all the related hoops.
This is not meant to be cynical, nor to suggest that standards bodies like the ANSI, ISO, and IEC are only after money. But money is indeed part of the game, as is an ongoing commitment of time, effort, and diligence to get and stay accredited, particularly where certifications fall under this umbrella.
The organizations behind the study looked at 16 certifications from a variety of careers and professions, as the focus for their investigations and analyses. These were:
- American Academy of Healthcare Providers in the Addictive Disorders Certified Addiction Specialist
- American Healthcare Information Management Association Registered Health Information Technician
- American Nursing Credentialing Center Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing - Board Certified
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification Medical Laboratory Technician
- Association for Supply Chain Management Certified Supply Chain Professional
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
- Board for Global EHS Credentialing Certified Industrial Hygienist
- CertNexus Certified Ethical Emerging Technologist
- CompTIA A+
- EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker
- (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Manufacturing Skills Standards Council Certified Production Technician 4.0
- Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals
- Project Management Institute Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- Smart Automation Certification Alliance Certified Industry 4.0 Associate - Basic Operations
This makes for an interesting combination of IT, healthcare, industrial technology, and workplace engineering. It seems like a pretty solid base from which to look into the perceived and actual value of certifications, based on a broad range of metrics and characteristics.
According to the press release for the latest study on Economic Mobility, the selection criteria for these certs were (quoted verbatim):
- a mix of more established certifications as well as certifications that have been developed recently to address emerging skills and occupations;
- certifications with a range of educational and experience prerequisites—from entry-level to post-baccalaureate specialization with particular attention to certifications that provide accessibility to workers without a prior college degree;
- a mix of accredited and non-accredited certification bodies;
- an opportunity to study the relationship between industry certifications and academic credentials; and
- an opportunity to map career pathways.
Certifications and Economic Mobility
Among the interesting factoids that the Workcred studies present is that “more than 43 million Americans hold a professional certification or license.” That’s nearly 13 percent of the total U.S. population — of which another nearly 22 percent is age 18 or under and thus, not likely to be certified anyway. Another 16 percent of the population are 65 or older and also less likely to be working.
This means that somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 working age Americans are certified or licensed. That’s substantial! And those numbers could grow, if these studies are correct in their assessments of certification import and value.
The mobility report asserts that “characteristics of quality certifications potentially make them useful tools for increasing the economic mobility of workers and expanding the talent pools for employers.” It points to how certifications can provide workers with skills to meet a variety of career goals relevant to the work-life continuum.
That includes new workers entering the labor market, mid-career and advanced workers who want to skill up or change topical focus, career changers moving across professions or industries, and specialists seeking to broaden or deepen skills and knowledge in some particular career specialty.
The report specifically mentions, Microsoft, Amazon, and Siemens as noteworthy when it comes to providing certifications that help define the “context within professional roles are performed in workplaces.” CompTIA also comes in for mention, thanks to its vendor-neutral certifications in IT that address specific job roles such as “IT support specialist, IT networking specialist, cybersecurity specialist, server and cloud engineers, and data specialist.”
Further, the report also speaks to numerous important topics that include:
- Certifications can be relevant to skills needed in the labor market; at the same time that improves their potential value to both employers and “credential seekers”.
- Certifications encourage (or require) lifelong learning to be kept current; this provides employers with assurance that cert-holders possess up-to-date skills and knowledge and enforces regular knowledge and skills updates for credential holders.
- A pathways approach (e.g. certification and/or learning paths, ladders, and so forth) helps credential seekers understand how to string together certs to follow various competencies and combinations; they also help educators figure out how to integrate them into educational curricula, degree plans, and more; and they provide guideposts to support certification seekers work through credentials and transition into new or different workplace roles.
- The report characterizes certs as potentially portable (allow workers to move from one job role or employer to another) and stackable (may be combined to fit specific job role requirements or to develop multi-faceted collections of skills and knowledge).
- The report explores a variety of connections between cert programs and academia that include EC-Council, CompTIA and Microsoft (all of which I’ve covered for GoCertify in various pieces).
In general, this report is chock-full of useful analyses that show powerful and valuable connections between certification and work. I strongly recommend digging further into its contents, along with the other reports cited at the outset of this story. Be prepared to get sucked in, and to learn some cool stuff. Cheers!