Challenge: Middle-skill jobs—those that require more than a high-school education, but less than a bachelor’s degree—account for 53 percent of the U.S. labor market, but only 43 percent of American workers are trained to that level. That’s a problem in the advanced energy economy, where middle-skill workers are needed and technology is always changing.
Solution: Stackable credentials comprise an organized sequence of certificates that can be accumulated over time to strengthen individual qualifications, and to advance a career pathway or a career ladder to different and higher-paying jobs. This sequence includes shorter-term skill development blocks, which allow students to exit and enter while still having gained marketable skills. It reduces educational and employment barriers for non-traditional and disadvantaged students. Stackable certificates should be portable, or independently verified and accredited, so student credentials are recognized by employers and educational institutions across the nation. States can utilize this system to support increased energy technology manufacturing by establishing specific career pathways with portable certificates for this expanding job field.
Example: The North Carolina Community College System has a green jobs curriculum focused on critical growth areas such as buildings, energy, engineering, environment, and transportation. This project has streamlined over 80 curriculums and affected thousands of students, and students can now earn multiple credentials endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers while working toward an associate degree. The project has conducted over 40 professional development events for more than 680 faculty participants to provide experience with new technologies and employer-desired skill sets.