Industry Market Trends
Spotlight on National Career Readiness Certificates
September 16, 2013
Certificate programs are currently the fastest-growing segment of higher education in the United States. Approximately 1 million were awarded in 2010, up from 300,000 in 1994. Last year, the number of students who earned one-to-two-year certificates jumped by 56 percent, compared with a 15-percent increase in the number of bachelor's degrees and a 25-percent rise in associate degrees. While there are a number of industry-specific certifications that validate the skills and competencies of workers, the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) stands out as a credential that relies on standardized assessments that measure workplace skills critical to success in occupations across all sectors of the economy. ACT, Inc., which administers the NCRC, is a not-for-profit organization perhaps best known for producing the ACT standardized test on college readiness for high school students. However, the Iowa-based organization also provides more than 100 other assessment, research, information, and program management services for education and workforce development. "The ACT National Career Readiness Certificate is a professional credential, which is quite different from a certificate awarded for completing an educational or training experience," said ACT spokesperson Katie Wacker. Launched in 2006, the NCRC complements traditional credentials like high school diplomas and community college degrees. Awarded at four levels, the certificate emphasizes competence in a specific set of skills and technical knowledge that are directly applicable to job performance and career advancement. Earning an NCRC requires successful performance on three standardized tests called WorkKeys, which measure real-world skills that employers believe are critical to job success. "The NCRC credential certifies skills that are linked to occupational success, not to academic achievement, making it accessible and meaningful to more American workers," Wacker told IMT Career Journal. The NCRC demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills in three key areas:
- Applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems.
- Using information from such materials as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts.
- Comprehending work-related reading materials that range from memos and bulletins to policy manuals and regulations.
- Work Discipline - Productivity and dependability
- Teamwork - Tolerance, communication, and attitude
- Customer Service Orientation - Interpersonal skills and perseverance
- Managerial Potential - Persuasion, enthusiasm, and problem solving