Today’s job market is anything but robust, and education and job training are topics heading new broadcasts and conversations around the nation’s kitchen tables. Often the question is asked, “What are we as a nation doing to educate today’s workers for the jobs of the future?”
No one denies that a college degree is an great insurance policy when it comes to your economic future. Students are applying to four year colleges and institutions in record numbers and many community colleges report they are at capacity and have long waiting lists for associate degree programs. Graduate schools are booming, with an ever-growing pool of students opting for master’s or doctoral programs, or degrees from medical, law and dental schools. However, did you know that certificate programs are expanding and graduates of these programs are finding solid niches in the over-all employment picture?
According to a recent study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, certificate programs are showing surprising strength as a real alternative in post-secondary education, outnumbering the number of awarded associate degrees. Certificate holders have established their place in the job market, with research revealing that certification from a good vocational program can have as much long-term economic reward as a traditional degree.
The certificate option gives participants the option of incremental learning — taking on a specific skill or professional specialty — in a focused and intensive way that equips them to enter the job market in a much shorter time than traditional degree-seekers. Certificate programs also permits those with previous degrees in other fields to make career changes without the expense and commitment of enrolling in a traditional California college program.
California certificate programs also serve as a great ‘first step,’ providing a solid employment and wage platform that allows certificate holders to advance to further study. For instance, many registered nurse and medical assistants began their careers as a phlebotomist or certified nurses assistant. Getting established in a health care career – an area where the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects enormous growth in the next decades – provides an economic foundation that can lead to the next step, getting additional certification or a degree. It is a real ‘earn while you learn’ opportunity endorsed by many employment experts.
Health care isn’t the only arena where certification provides earning and career opportunity. In a very partisan world, there is bi-partisan agreement that the nation’s infrastructure is in need of repair or replacement. This is opening the door to employment in efficient energy production and construction — and that means a need for more licensed electricians, plumbers and welders, as well as workers trained in green technologies.
According to the Georgetown survey, certificate programs are an excellent option, providing valuable vocational training that is affordable, practical and flexible. Certificate holders have an increasingly strong presence in the job market and certification programs have the potential to help deliver more highly-trained workers into the U.S. job market.