Project Overview

Skilled credentials, such as a professional certification, apprenticeship, or badge indicating a person’s competencies within a field, are becoming increasingly popular among workers and educational providers. These credentials can offer a viable alternative pathway to high-wage industries for job seekers with barriers to employment or those who find traditional postsecondary degrees cost-prohibitive. As such, traditionally underserved populations often seek skilled credentials, as do those with nonlinear work histories, such as military-connected populations, formerly incarcerated people, and those who have been out of the workforce for an extended period.

However, employers lag in accepting these credentials in their hiring strategies; for many employers, challenges related to time, cost, knowledge, trust, and scale keep them from adopting skills-based hiring and retention strategies even when they agree with the goals of such strategies. This lag in the adoption of credentials puts workers of color, who are less likely than their white counterparts to earn a traditional degree, as well as other historically undervalued talent, at a disadvantage in the job market. Meanwhile, data are limited on the effect of skilled credentials on people’s access to jobs and advancement opportunities, manageable best practices for employers to “dip their toes in,” and clearinghouses to help employers adjudicate basic quality and build trust in the credentialing system.

The SHRM Foundation aims to address these challenges through a pilot education and technical assistance program that will train human resources professionals at 30–40 employers on how to use skilled credentials to hire, place, and promote workers without traditional degrees. Researchers will assess changes in the perceptions of skilled credentials by Georgia SHRM’s human resources network, job postings, hiring outcomes, and other employer systems, as well as levels of successful adoption of skills-related strategies in three conditions with varying levels of guidance and support, to shed light on the more effective balance between cost, time, and support to drive scale and expand adoption. In addition, SHRM will inventory current practices for several companies receiving implementation coaching and assistance. Findings from the project have the potential to strengthen employer hiring decisions, educational and workforce development approaches, and policy supports for skilled credentials.