Employers See Value in Nondegree Credentials but Aren’t Exactly Sure How to Use Them

A new report also reveals that the majority of employers would like to be involved in the development of the curriculum for these credentials.
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  • Seventy-three percent of employers believe nondegree credential programs improve the quality of the workforce.
  • But more than 40% are unsure about the quality of credential programs and the skills workers acquire through them.
  • Employers say proof of program effectiveness would incentivize them to partner with schools on credential programs.

The rise in alternative and nondegree credential programs has a seal of approval from employers.

A recent report by Collegis Education in partnership with the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) reveals that the vast majority of employers believe in the value and benefits of these programs, with only 2% of surveyed respondents seeing little to no value in them.

Further, 74% of employers report that employees with these credentials have helped their organizations fill existing skills gaps. Nearly an equal percentage of employers (73%) also say that nondegree or alternative credentials have improved the quality of their workforce.

Among the greatest benefits of nondegree credentials programs, employers cite added real-world experience (23%), skilled workers (16%), and improved performance/soft skills (13%).

Other benefits employers cite are an expanded/diverse talent pool (6%) and reduced company/student costs (5%).

Despite overwhelming support for these programs, employers and their organizations have some skepticism about their effectiveness.

Among their greatest concerns about how nondegree programs will impact the broader workforce, employers most commonly worry about wrong or irrelevant credentials and a lack critical skills/training (17%), the quality of credential education and validating credentials (12%), and a lack of educational/professional experience among workers (11%).

Notably, 20% of respondents expressed little to no concern.

Additionally, a large percentage of employers say their organizations are unsure about the quality of credential education (46%) and the skills and competencies acquired through it (42%).

A third of respondents (33%) also report uncertainty about the programs' alignment with occupational or professional standards. And more than a quarter of respondents (28%) report an inability to incorporate credential programs into hiring rubrics or systems.

What most employers are currently seeking from alternative and nondegree credentials is collaboration and partnerships with institutions that offer these programs.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) say their organizations want to be approached by colleges or universities to develop nondegree programs that benefit their workforce. And 65% would be incentivized to form these partnerships with proof of program effectiveness.

As these programs continue to gain steam among students, with many graduates believing they are worth the cost and effort, organizations will have to find ways to better understand and utilize them.