Joseph Warta and Jenna Robinson of the Martin Center write about the future of industry credentials tied to community colleges.

“Industry credentials” are a popular trend in modern education. But the term is rarely defined. Industry credentials offer the promise of short-term training or retraining for an agile, 21st-century workforce. Community colleges offer the training programs to would-be skill-seekers and students have flocked to these programs. But data about what these credentials are and how they work are hard to find.

This is perhaps because the term is both broad and vague. The US Department of Labor provides this definition:

“An industry-issued or recognized credential (or an education- or work-related credential) is a verification of a person’s qualifications or competence, issued by a third party with the relevant authority to issue such credentials…The term credential encompasses educational certificates, degrees, certifications, and government-issued licenses.”

Credentials are mostly offered by community colleges as an alternative to more expensive and time-consuming bachelor’s or associate’s degree programs. They are tailored to fit a specific skill, industry, or even company. For example, at Wake Technical Community College, there are many broad industry-recognized certificates in the hospitality industry, while there are specific certification classes for individual companies’ software, including Red Hat and CompTIA.

In general, community colleges work closely with companies and industries in order to ensure the viability and relevance of credentials.