Expanding Access to Quality Credentials for Colorado Learners

As Colorado’s economy evolves, so do its talent needs, making way for new career pathways. 

While more than 90 percent of jobs in Colorado require some form of education beyond high school, half of Colorado’s open positions are “middle-skills” jobs requiring education beyond high school but below a bachelor’s degree. These middle-skilled jobs are essential for our economy and can be important stepping stones for Coloradans pursuing greater economic mobility.

To access these positions, Coloradans can develop skills and earn credentials through short-term credential programs offered at traditional institutions of higher education and through alternative providers.

Though high-school students and adult learners increasingly rely on non-degree and industry-recognized credential paths to pursue these jobs, identifying the right pathway in the current system can be complicated. Currently, more than 1 million non-degree credentials are available to learners, and not all of them address skills gaps or provide benefits.

To provide all Colorado learners with the information they need to pursue education and training programs that allow for progressive learning and expand economic mobility opportunities, the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC), Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), Colorado Community College System (CCCS), and Colorado Department of Education (CDE) released the Quality and In-Demand Non-degree Credentials Framework.

The framework provides a unified and consistent definition of quality non-degree credentials in the state and outlines the process for designating a credential as quality. Under Colorado’s definition, quality non-degree credentials can take many forms, including certifications, occupational licenses, Apprenticeship Certificates of Completion, non-credit certificates, micro-credentials (including badges), and sub-baccalaureate for-credit certificates. It also specifies that demand, evidence of skill, employer outcomes, and stackability into higher-level credentials should all be considered in assessing a credential’s quality.

This framework came in response to the last legislative session’s SB22-192, which Colorado Succeeds supported, to create more transparency in the various pathways Coloradans can take to access the state’s most high-needs industries. Colorado Succeeds is proud to have supported both the bill and the work of state agencies that produced the Quality and In-Demand Non-Degree Credentials Framework

This unified definition will improve student transparency, help employers understand the credential landscape, and create greater consistency in state policy. It will allow Colorado to focus on the credentials and programs that meet the needs of students and our economy. 

Katie Zaback

Vice President of Policy