Professional Certifications: 3 Reasons Why No One Cares & How to Fix It
With so many ads offering to make you an online millionaire in 60 days (no experience required, of course), it’s no wonder certifications get a bad rap. You can almost hear skeptics’ thoughts: what does a test prove anyways?
But they’re wrong.
In fact, companies encouraging certifications claim that certified workers are not only safer but more productive and less error-prone. Plus, the labor market for certified workers or middle-skilled jobs continues to grow. The National Skills Coalition found middle-skilled jobs will still account for 48% of American job openings in 2024.
The problem? Only 43% of the American labor force was qualified for these jobs in 2015.
Professional certifications could fill a big hole in the market, but they often don’t get the respect they deserve. This post will explain why and how to fix it.
1. Lack of public awareness
Public awareness remains one of the biggest challenges facing certifying bodies. How can potential employees take a certification they’ve never heard of?
Of course, with 2,500 possibilities mentioned in job ads, it can be hard to choose. Until you realize two-thirds came from the same top 50 credentials.
Even with this statistic, educators and policymakers struggle to help certifications become a household name. Without a partnership between industry stakeholders, educators, and policymakers, it’s no surprise that many students don’t consider using certification to get ahead in their careers.
Some policymakers already compile lists of high-quality certifications, but they do so with very little data. The sad part is that data exists. Credentialing bodies and the government both collect data on learners (certified workers) and the labor market—they just need to put it together.
With data, educational institutes can better guide students to in-demand careers, while employers benefit from highly-skilled employees.
2. Small recruitment pool
Sure employees get hired faster with a certification, but why should they bother when a good attitude is all it takes to get hired?
In construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, hiring managers don’t ask for certifications because they rarely see them on resumes and they already have difficulty finding applicants.
Of course, certified employees earn more. One Toyota manager accumulated an extra $100,000 over 20 years. But, for potential applicants, companies often pay for certifications so it’s easy enough for employees to earn them on the job.
Interestingly, if you search Google for certifications, IT certifications claim four of the top ten spots. Most articles give readers suggestions on the most valuable IT certifications this year. So what’s IT doing differently? Do they just ask for certifications more? Is it just more competitive?
It’s probably a range of factors, but if employers ask for certifications in job ads then they will raise those certifications’ reputation. By not asking, employers create a negative feedback loop (since no one’s asking; no one’s bothering to certify).
3. In-house curricula
Isn’t education always good? At least, that’s what most high school students believe.
Unfortunately, they might be wrong when it comes to certificates.
When interviewed, many firms prefer to train their own employees, rather than relying on a credential. Even worse, all employers complained certifications fail to prove the hands-on skills.
Credentialing bodies address this complaint by requiring learners to prove years of experience. However, different jobs require different levels of expertise. So one highly technical job may produce more qualified employees in less time, while a less technical position may never result in a highly skilled employee no matter how many years they perform it.
Of course, since computers mark multiple-choice tests, credentialing bodies will need more resources to assess hands-on projects.
However, with new technology, credentialing bodies can create more robust assessments. Instead of relying on expensive face-to-face exams, credentialing bodies could look at videos or digital portfolios to assess student work. Similarly, project journals could highlight growth and encourage reflective learning practices.
Where do we go from here?
Opportunity America’s research came to one brilliant conclusion to solve all three issues facing certifications: Create a feedback loop.
The industry needs to advertise certifications in their hiring processes to raise public awareness. Policymakers can support educational institutions offering credentials, as well as determine in-demand certifications. Finally, educators can suggest middle-skilled jobs as an alternative bridge between employment and high school.
With this feedback loop in place, we’d see wider adoption and, hopefully, better outcomes for young people looking for work.
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