National education benefits administrator Edcor anticipates value of post-secondary credentials growing as COVID-19 impacted job market evolves

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American workers are reevaluating their post-secondary education options in light of COVID-19 disruptions. Many are calling for a more meaningful education that will rapidly upgrade their skills and prepare them for future work in the post-pandemic workplace—and finding that earning post-secondary credentials, as opposed to two- and four-year degrees, may better fit their needs.

Short-term certificates provide fast training for employees and an immediate return on investment for employers.

Adrienne Way, CEO and President of Edcor—one of the nation’s largest providers of education benefits administration solutions to employers—notes American workers are reevaluating their postsecondary education options in light of COVID-19 disruptions. Many are calling for a more meaningful education that will rapidly upgrade their skills and prepare them for future work in the post-pandemic workplace—and finding that earning postsecondary credentials, as opposed to two- and four-year degrees, may better fit their needs.

Edcor, which has processed nearly $250 million in tuition assistance payments and supported more than two million employees in 2019, determined that 55%–65% percent of its clients currently include certificates and certifications in their tuition assistance programs. Way, a veteran of the employee tuition assistance industry and a keen observer of education-related workplace trends, expects that number to increase with technology continuing to fuel the substantial demand for additional training and shifts in postsecondary education due to the pandemic.

According to a Strada Education Network survey taken in April, nearly one in five Americans have changed their education plans—with almost 28 million Americans cancelling their plans due to the pandemic. However, 59% of respondents who intended to pursue additional education in the next six months prefer nondegree programs, including courses for skills development, certificates or licenses, or courses for personal interest. Within that category, survey participants were split evenly between upskilling for a current career, reskilling for a new career field, or to pursue personal interests.

“Offering tuition assistance for postsecondary credentials is a strategic action that complements employer tuition assistance for degrees and enables employers to quickly build their talent pipeline and develop career paths that benefit both the business and its employees,” Way said. “Short-term certificates provide fast training for employees and an immediate return on investment for employers.”

In academic year 2017–18, postsecondary institutions conferred a total of 955,000 certificates (non-associate’s level), according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal entity that collects and analyzes education-related data. The organization reported that between 2000–01 and 2017–18, the number of certificates conferred by public institutions increased by 117 percent (from 310,000 to 672,000). For private institutions, the number decreased slightly during the same timeframe (from 29,000 to 26,000), but overall, showed no consistent downward trend.

The National Skills Coalition also recently released a report finding demand for digital literacy skills has only accelerated since the pandemic, as workers are being asked to quickly adapt to new tools and technologies.

“Almost all jobs and careers interface with technology in some manner,” Way says. “Workers need life-long learning through post-secondary certificates, certifications and licenses, to learn specific skills and work with technology advances. Employers who financially support their employees in pursuit of these skills will have a prepared workforce that is willing to engage in continual training.”

Postsecondary credentials also promote equity and diversity in the American workforce. Certificate programs enroll higher proportions of low-income students, students of color and older adults because they cost less than degree programs and often have flexible schedules that nontraditional students need to balance work, family, and school. Way cites a 2020 report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce which shows that “students enrolling in and earning certificates and associate’s degrees are much more diverse than those pursuing bachelor’s degrees.”

“In the long run, employers who cover a variety of post-secondary credentials in their tuition assistance programs will hold an advantage over those who don’t, because they will see the value of post-secondary certificates, certifications and licenses in recruiting and retaining valuable employees,” Way said.

About Edcor
Edcor, a certified woman-owned business, is the benchmark in education benefits administration. For nearly 40 years, its customized service and software solutions have allowed clients to use education benefits programs, including tuition assistance and student loan assistance, for employee recruiting, retention, and development. Additional information can be found at https://www.edcor.com/.

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Barbara Fornasiero
EAFocus, Inc.
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