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Five Takeaways from Florida CAN's Webinar on "Understanding Credentials"

Author: Troy Miller, Associate Directory for Research & Policy, Florida College Access Network

October 24, 2016

Florida CAN recently hosted Jeff Strohl, director of research at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce on a webinar about postsecondary degrees and credentials.  Dr. Strohl discussed the questions and challenges  states face when setting goals to increase the percent of their residents who hold a high-quality degree or credential to meet future workforce demand, a topic the center has addressed repeatedly in recent years.
 
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the webinar.

  1. The value of education has stood the test of time.  Historically speaking, for decades employers have — and continue to — pay more for workers with a college degree or credential.  Why?  Workers with higher levels of education and training tend to have increased knowledge, skills and abilities, which makes them more productive and valuable to their employers.

  2. But not just for bachelor’s degree holders.  Many workers with an associate’s degree, postsecondary certificate, industry certification, apprenticeship or even some college, but no degree experience a wage premium over workers with no postsecondary education or training, too.  According to recent estimates, about 7% of Florida adults hold a postsecondary certificate.

  3. “Some college” can make a big difference.  The effect technology has had on the labor force in the last 40 years has been profound, even on traditionally “low-skilled” jobs like  auto mechanics.  In 1970, about 7% of auto mechanics had at least some college education.  According to Dr. Strohl, over 34% of auto mechanics now have at least some college education.

  4. Want to set a statewide goal for postsecondary attainment?  States need to follow these two steps: (1) decide on a baseline for their goal and (2) agree how to measure progress over time.  Currently, about 47% of Florida workers hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.

  5. The next question is, what degrees and credentials are truly “high-quality” and offer a wage premium over what workers earn with only a high school diploma.  To better understand how many adults in Florida truly hold a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential, including industry certifications, Dr. Strohl recommends that state and local experts engage in a careful vetting process of available postsecondary, workforce and employer data.

Higher education will need our help in meeting future workforce demand.   About 15% of Florida’s adult population is currently enrolled in a Florida college or university, which means we are going to need to connect many more Floridians who are not currently connected to a college pathway to reach future workforce demands.  Strategies for doing so could include expanding opportunities for training and upskilling with current employers, connecting high school and college students to internships, and establishing clear career and postsecondary education pathways for residents with (or without) a high school diploma.

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