By looking at skills-based learning and microcredentials, institutions can directly connect degree programs to the workforce.

Students say microcredentials help them stand out in the workforce


By adopting skills-based learning, higher education institutions can fill gaps in their curricula and directly connect their degree programs to the labor market

Nearly 90 percent of students either agree or strongly agree that earning professional certificates or microcredentials will help them stand out to employers and secure jobs when they graduate. Combined with the importance that students place on employability, this may explain why including professional certificates in an academic program makes students, on average, 75 percent more likely to enroll in that program.

Professional certificates help hiring decisionmakers solve for their top two challenges: identifying and validating applicants’ skills. When hiring recent university graduates, 42 percent of employers report difficulty sourcing candidates with the specific skills needed for the job, while 36 percent struggle to verify that candidates have the right level of skills proficiency. These challenges apply to both technology and human skills, which employers report are also the most difficult to find in the applicant pool.

Employers both recognize and value professional certificates: they are on average 76 percent more likely to hire a candidate who has earned one. When presented with a range of hiring scenarios that include both a candidate with a professional certificate and a candidate without one, hiring decision-makers repeatedly expressed a strong preference for the candidate with a professional certificate. In line with this finding, 92 percent of employers either agree or strongly agree that a professional certificate strengthens a candidate’s application.

The report also offers recommendations for institutions:

  1. By adopting skills-based learning, higher education institutions can fill gaps in their curricula and directly connect their degree programs to the labor market.
  2. Employers are taking note, expressing strong interest in skills-based credentials like professional certificates as complements to traditional academic degrees.
  3. By earning a professional certificate alongside their degree, students pair their academic knowledge with job-specific skills that employers both recognize and value.

Laura Ascione

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