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Certification Programs Key to Helping Workers in Post-Pandemic Economy

The need for universal post-high-school education is rooted in the global shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, a trend that shows no sign of abating. (Pixnio)
The need for universal post-high-school education is rooted in the global shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, a trend that shows no sign of abating. (Pixnio)
July 9, 2020

DENVER -- As the nation struggles to recover from the economic downturn amid the coronavirus pandemic, workforce experts are calling on states, including Colorado, to ramp up efforts to ensure that more workers have post-high-school education and certificates.

According to Jeff Strohl, Ph.D., director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, fewer than half of Americans between ages 25 and 64 hold a credential beyond high school.

"As we've entered into this horrid pandemic recession, certifications are going to become very core to some of our re-skilling and re-employment efforts," said Strohl.

Colorado's post-high-school attainment level is higher than the national average, at nearly 60%.

But according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, 75% of all jobs in the state require some kind of postsecondary credential or degree.

Students of color are at greater risk of being left behind. Just 40% of Black workers ages 25 to 34, and 30% of Latinx and Hispanic workers, have credentials.

A new Lumina Foundation online tool helps track state attainment levels.

Lumina's Vice President for Strategic Impact Courtney Brown said one key to improving outcomes for workers is to give high school and college counselors better training, so they can steer students to certificate programs for skills that will help them get jobs.

"People with certifications, and no other postsecondary credential, are more likely to be employed than those without them," Brown explained. "We know that they make higher salaries, are more likely to be promoted, and have greater job satisfaction than those without."

Brown added that certifications are not just for recent high school graduates; they can also help magnify or refresh skill sets, which can keep workers competitive.

The United States, once a leader in post-high-school educational attainment, is now ranked 10th behind countries including South Korea, Canada, Lithuania and the United Kingdom.


Support for this reporting was made possible by Lumina Foundation.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO