Young people used to have the choice between college degrees and vocational training (certificates), but over the past 30+ years, the pressure has been on students to get their bachelor’s degrees. This created a void in vocational training. Research proved that college graduates fared better economically – earning $30,000 more than non-college graduates annually. But during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shift back towards skills-based online credentials.
As we face the worst recession in a century and a call for social justice, there is a surge in online certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeships, micro-credentials, boot camps, and lower-cost online master’s degrees. People are looking at online and non-degree programs to build necessary skills that align with what corporate America needs today.
Google just announced new online career-certificate programs similar to their popular IT-support specialist online certificates. These certificates will be considered the equivalent of a four-year degree in those subject areas. IBM, Facebook, Salesforce, and Microsoft are also creating their own short-term, skills-based credentials. Other tech companies are dropping degree requirements for some of their jobs.
In order to make these certificate programs transfer to dependable employment in the future, these credentials need to be stackable (able to add more certificates in related fields) and portable (skills can be used in other industries). The verdict is out on whether or not certificate programs will compete with real college degrees when the pandemic passes and the economy bounces back. I think employers will want college graduates who have a stronger overall academic foundation, who have built a network of college buddies, and who have cultural literacy that is aligned with corporate mucky mucks.