Improving Transparency, Quality and Trust in Credentialing

August 01, 2013


Lumina Foundation


The last decade has seen enormous growth in the number and variety of labor market credentials -- of college degrees, educational certificates, industry certifications, occupational licenses and such micro-credentials as “badges.” This proliferation has exacerbated long-existing uncertainty about the quality and value of many credentials, including what they represent and how they relate to each other. That uncertainty is causing serious confusion in the labor market, which in turn is driving up costs for employers, students, job seekers and public funders, and exacerbating skill shortages. The growth of competency-based education raises an additional difficulty in promoting transparency: the wide variety of approaches and methods used to describe learning outcomes. 

To address these problems, in 2013 GWIPP and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) launched a credentialing transparency initiative funded by Lumina Foundation. This initiative has two main goals: 1) to develop common terms for describing the key features of credentials (competencies, labor market value, etc.) and the processes (criteria, etc.) used by quality assurance bodies in accrediting or otherwise approving them; and 2) to create an open, voluntary web-based data “registry” for sharing the resulting information, and to develop and test some practical “applications” that would be of interest to potential users. Phase I of the initiative saw major progress toward these goals, including the enlistment of strong support from a broad array of key stakeholders (see below). As of July 1, 2015, thanks to a second grant from Lumina, this initiative entered Phase II, which runs through Dec. 2017. A new partner is Southern Illinois University’s Center for Workforce Development, and ANSI is now participating through its affiliate, Workcred.  

The specific objectives of Phase II are to:

  • Develop a “reference model” and accompanying set of guides and tools to enable the development and publishing of comparable competency information;
  • Develop final definitions and coding schema for competencies and other credential “descriptors,” so the initiative can proceed with testing a beta version of a credentialing registry;
  • Develop similar definitions and coding schema for quality assurance bodies so they can register comparable information on how they accredit, approve, and endorse credentials;
  • Create a beta version of a credentialing registry on the existing Learning Registry (hosted by four federal government agencies), for which permission has already been granted;
  • Work with already-interested stakeholders to develop four applications for determining the registry’s value: 1) an app that allows stakeholders (e.g., industry associations) to build directories of credentials that meet their criteria; 2) an app that allows employers to communicate competency and credentialing requirements (to be used by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its Talent Pipeline Management initiative); 3) a “transfer value” app that supports the review and analysis of “competency-based” resumes, transcripts and portfolios based on transfer policies and recommendations; and 4) a “competency authoring” app;
  • Test the registry and applications with 50-100 credentialing and quality assurance organizations;
  • Organize a “credentialing collaborative” involving stakeholders and experts to: create metrics for evaluating the pilots; recommend changes to the descriptors, credentialing registry and applications; and decide whether the results are promising enough to warrant going to scale.

The Stakeholder Organizations that Participated in Phase I

AACC (American Association of Community Colleges)
AAC&U (Association of American Colleges & Universities)
AASCU (American Association of State Colleges & Universities)
ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology)
ACE (American Council on Education)
ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools & Colleges)
Accenture, Inc.
Accreditrust, LLC
American Legion
AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association)
APLU (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
APSA (Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors)
APSCU (Association of Private Sector Colleges & Universities)
ASE (Automotive Service Excellence)
ATP (Association of Test Publishers)
Business Roundtable
Center for Energy Workforce Development
CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation)
CLEAR (Council on Licensure Enforcement and Regulation)
Committee for Economic Development
ETS (Educational Testing Service)
HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute)
ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence)
Mozilla Foundation and its Badge Alliance
The Manufacturing Institute (NAM)
NAWB (National Association of Workforce Boards)
National Campus Leadership Council
National Governors Association
National Student Clearing House
National Skills Coalition/Workforce Data Quality Campaign
NILOA (National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment)
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
U.S. Department of Commerce/NIST
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Education/Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education
U.S. Department of Energy/ Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services/ Health Resources & Services Administration
U.S. Department of Labor/Employment & Training Administration
U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Pearson Education
SHEEO (State Higher Education Executive Officers)
United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry