MAPPING AND STACKING THE WAY
Paths from education to meaningful employment and personal and community prosperity will vary widely for individual students and their ambitions. However, for many, and particularly underserved populations with limited exposure to higher education, these paths to market-relevant credentials are often poorly marked or altogether inaccessible. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty that can lead to yet another generation being undereducated, underemployed, and underestimated. Intentionally designed and well- marked pathways, showing all steps and possible outcomes, will enable students to understand the process, see their way forward, and make informed decisions.
Credentials aligned to workforce skills must lead the way. A stackable approach is a strong first step for students, allowing them to earn credentials that are valuable in themselves, but can be also paired with others to accrue into a broader set of knowledge, skills, and abilities without the student losing time or repeating work. As students accumulate credentials across their lifetimes, they build a suite of skills necessary in the 21st-century economy and increase their ability to compete in the fast-moving technology-based economy, which generates new demands for skills and knowledge on an almost-daily basis. Understanding the evolution of competencies needed in our changing workplaces and supporting the development of new and responsive credentials are critical, and many new models should be evaluated and considered.