Monday, October 16th, 2017

Workforce certifications lead to opportunities

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011

By Kris Deckard, executive director, Ready Indiana

Do you know the difference between a certificate and a certification?

Industry leaders and educators will likely answer “yes.” But, if employers and employees (those who are most impacted by the need for such credentials) don’t understand, it’s a problem – particularly with their growing importance in the workplace.

Here’s a quick reference guide: A certificate is generally awarded by an educational institution to indicate the completion of a course of study or program that does not culminate in a degree. The certification, however, is typically awarded by a third-party non-academic institution and is based on a process that assesses certain occupational skills. Linguistically, it’s understandable that the two often get confused. Nevertheless, both are important.

Credentials of either type prove to a potential or current employer that the employee is serious about a career in the field they are pursing. Certificates and certifications both require time and money to achieve, which shows potential employers a dedication to the industry -- whether it’s manufacturing, logistics, transportation or health care, for example. Employers will know that the applicant is serious about the position.

Employers also realize that employees who attain certain certifications are pre-trained in necessary skills for the job – potentially cutting down on the training that will need to happen once they are hired.

Having the training is important, but the type of training should also be considered.

Certification standardization is an important factor. There are some nationally-recognized standards, but many more are not. While employees could be going out and getting a certificate or certification required by a current employer, it’s possible that credential won’t be recognized or accepted by the next employer or educational institution.

A 2009 report by the Springboard Project (a Business Roundtable commission) highlighted the fact that about 700,000 different certificates awarded each year are not transferrable or transportable. There is a need for nationally and industry-recognized, portable, stackable, foundational skills that all employees have the ability to attain.

Nationally-recognized certifications, such as the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) program, are standardized across the country to carry the necessary skill sets for the manufacturing and logistics industries, regardless of location.

Hoosier businesses now have access to the MSSC certification program as a business-to-business model through Ready Indiana, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s workforce development initiative. The certification is also eligible for academic credit at Ivy Tech Community College, helping to further additional education and training opportunities.

Through this “do-it-yourself” model, employers can train their employees (and even prospective employees) on the job site with an in-house trainer, saving both time and money.

Workers have an appetite for education, though most quote convenience as the top barrier to completing schooling or certifications; in-house training programs such as MSSC help eliminate that concern. The Springboard survey of employers and employees also reported that 41% of workers said they were unsure if extra training would pay off. The current system– with 700,000 certificates that are in many cases not portable or stackable for employees – drives that worry home. Standardization would begin to solve these issues.

Employers and employees share the need to communicate and work together to elevate our workforce.

The workforce world is constantly changing and it will take collaboration on all parts to bring the system up to speed. We need to do a better job for Hoosiers if we want to remain economically competitive and bridge the current workforce skills gap.