Call for a National Conversation on Creating a Competency-based Credentialing Ecosystem

Business Meeting

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) recently joined policy leaders[1] in other organizations calling upon key stakeholders in our nation’s postsecondary education and workforce credentialing system to increase transparency, trust and portability in the credentialing marketplace.  Postsecondary education and credentials are critical to economic mobility for individuals and economic competitiveness for our nation, yet too many low-income youth and adults never succeed in earning credentials that enable them to advance in education, or access family-sustaining employment. Therefore, they continue to fall further and further behind.  Too often, even when vulnerable students succeed in attaining postsecondary and workforce credentials, these credentials have limited value in the labor market, are not portable to higher level credentials within the education system, and provide only provide limited opportunities for career advancement.

The U.S. has a widely varied education and training system that provides multiple routes to educational and career advancement. It also offers a diverse, multi-layered credentialing marketplace of degrees, certificates, certifications, licenses, and badges, which are offered by a wide variety of educational institutions and credentialing organizations. While this dynamism in educational offerings and credentials creates many new options, the proliferation of credentials without an underpinning of consistent definitions, standards, and quality assurance mechanisms has left students, job-seekers, workers, employers, government, and education and training providers confused about the quality and market value of the credentials being offered. 

CLASP believes that large-scale expansion of the use of credentials that recognize an individual’s competencies – regardless of where or how these competencies were earned – is essential to meet the demands of students, job seekers, employers, government and education and training providers. CLASP also envisions a dynamic student-centered approach to credentialing that promotes “stackability” of all kinds of credentials and pathways within and among the disparate education, training, and credentialing siloes that now create career dead ends for too many.

The high-quality competency-based credentialing system we envision would be based on shared language, shared quality assurance mechanisms, and shared public-private data to increase transparency, trust, and portability of credentials.

Building blocks already exist. Competency-based credentials can be found in thousands of places – diverse industries, educational institutions, assessment organizations, government agencies, and more.  We need to scale and connect.

For more information or to share your perspectives, resources, or related credentialing reform efforts, please contact me at   

For information on CLASP’s publications and policy positions related to competency-based education, career pathways and stackable credentials, please visit our website,

Evelyn Ganzglass is a senior fellow at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

[1] Keith Bird, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce; Vickie Choitz, CLASP; Stephen Crawford, George Washington Institute for Public Policy, George Washington University; Evelyn Ganzglass, CLASP; Larry Good, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce; Garrett Groves, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; Vijay Krishna, American National Standards Institute; Amy Laitinen, New America Foundation; Mary Alice McCarthy, New America Foundation; Jennifer McNelly, Manufacturing Institute; Robert Sheets, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Martin Simon, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; Jeff Strohl, Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce; Roy Swift, American National Standards Institute; Audrey Theis, Key Links, Inc.; Andy Van Kleunen, National Skills Coalition; David Wilcox, Global Skills X-Change; Sarah White, Center on Wisconsin Strategy; Joan Wills, Institute for Educational Leadership; Rachel Zinn, Workforce Data Quality Campaign


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