Credentials & Certificates

An Industry Credential is a certification issued by an occupational or industry group to demonstrate competency or completion of training for a particular job category. It is an industry-recognized third-party or governing board administered assessment, examination, or license that measures occupational competency and validates knowledge and skills that demonstrate mastery.

Benefits and Challenges


  • Supports skills-based hiring practices by demonstrating evidence of specific knowledge and abilities
  • Intentionally connects workforce skills to workforce demands to address the skills gap while increasing an individual’s earning potential
Potential Challenges
  • Finding education partners
  • Communicating and identifying applicable certifications
  • Understanding the laws and regulations

Students & Educators

  • Mechanism for students to demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills
  • Increases marketability to employers and job prospects, as well as options for postsecondary education
  • Provides districts the opportunity to tailor graduation requirements to better meet the unique needs of learners
Potential Challenges
  • Many students and families are unfamiliar with career opportunities unlocked by credentials and certificates
  • Bandwidth of educators, counselors, and students to foster partnerships and implement

Getting Started

The unique needs and resources of each district will dictate the implementation of industry certifications as an approved component of a district’s graduation requirement. 

Certification Examples


Completing an industry certification program and passing the industry recognized certification exam/license


Passing an examination that enables the award of an industry certification 


Obtaining a state-issued professional license

Sector Partnerships

A sector partnership is a model adopted by Colorado for workforce and economic development to ensure the state has a skilled workforce trained to match the needs of local industry and to maintain the state’s economic competitiveness.

The Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is the state-wide convener and facilitator for sector partnerships. CWDC is a public/private partnership of business, economic development, education, workforce development, and government at the local, regional, and state levels. CWDC coordinates education and training partners working with industry to prepare the workforce of the future.

The work of CWDC and its other statewide partners, such as the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, promotes business-led regional public-private partnerships to address regional workforce needs for Colorado’s most critical industries.

Sector Partnerships:

  • Bring employers from the same industry together with the education, training, and other community supports needed to implement solutions and services that ensure a target industry thrives.
  • Support current or new career pathways, which are a series of connected education and training programs, work experiences, and student support services that enable individuals to secure jobs and/or advance in an in-demand industry or occupation.
  • Can be a resource for identifying industry certifications or credentials.
  • Are focused at the local and regional level, not the state level.

There may already be an established partnership between education and business through a sector partnership in your area. Check the CWDC website or with your local workforce center to learn
about sector partnerships in your region.

Concurrent Enrollment and Stackable Credentials

Industry certifications represent another pathway from high school to postsecondary education. Because industry certifications are earned through a series of courses taught by a postsecondary education institution, a student could potentially begin earning postsecondary credits and working towards an industry certification while still in high school.

Many schools and districts already take advantage of concurrent enrollment – 92% of districts and 75% of high schools have students participating in concurrent enrollment. These partnerships between high schools and higher education can support students in developing a pathway towards an industry certification.  

Concurrent enrollment courses can be utilized for CTE postsecondary programs as well, many of which may end with the option to sit for an industry certification examination. Here are some additional resources on implementing concurrent enrollment in your district.

Another key way to support students’ educational and employment outcomes is providing opportunities to earn stackable credentials. These are credentials that are “part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them to move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher-paying jobs.”

Because there are an overwhelming number of credentials a student could earn, identifying a career pathway, and the stackable credentials within that pathway, can help narrow the focus on where to start and subsequent certifications that can be earned. Industry groups are working on developing a series or sequence of stackable credentials that will prepare students for employment in the industry. 

Career Success Program

Through this program, participating school districts and charter schools can receive up to $1,000 bonus funding for each student who completes an industry certification linked to high demand jobs, finishes a rigorous postsecondary internship, residency, or apprenticeship program tied to key industry needs, or successfully completes a Computer Science Advanced Placement (AP) course. Recently the program was extended through 2024.

Examples and Partners

In partnership with the Chaffee County Economic Development Corp. the Salida School District offers students a construction trades program that is credentialed through Colorado Mountain College. Students enrolled in the program receive on-site skills training, safety certification, and workforce readiness leading to career opportunities in the growing field of construction and trades. Through the program, students have the unique opportunity to address an important issue in their community: affordable housing for district employees.


David Blackburn, Superintendent
Wendell Pryor & Kory KatsimpalisChaffee County Economic Development 

Rural Community Playbook for WBL & CTE 
Salida Construction Trades Program (video)

The St. Vrain Valley Schools Innovation Center provides experiential opportunities that helps students develop into tomorrow’s leaders, innovators, and change-makers. In addition to rigorous extended learning and mentorship opportunities, students gain valuable experience through employment that focuses on designing and engineering technology solutions for industry and community partners. Through Innovation Center courses, learners have the opportunity to earn a variety of industry recognized certifications. 

John Steckel, Director of Innovation
Patty Quinones, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation

St. Vrain Prepares for Future (video)
Innovation Center Flyer
St. Vrain Breaks the Mold (blog)

Through its Performance Based Learning model and robust partnerships with local businesses and higher education Mesa 51 School District is working hard to create graduates that are ready for 21st century college and career opportunities. D51 (as well as Salida and many others) is leveraging the incentives from the Career Success Program which was recently extended through 2024.

Cam Wyatt, Career Center Principal
Andrea Bolton, CTE Coordinator
Luke Carleo, Community Partnerships & Relations

Find Your Future – a site for Mesa County youth to explore career options and find supports
Work-Based Learning in Mesa 51 (video)
Education Reimagined: Mesa 51

The Woods Manufacturing Program is not a shop class, but a chance for students to learn cutting edge skills needed in the Woods Manufacturing industry. A collaborative effort between Peyton School District and Widefield District 3, the program led to the development of a national Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab (the MiLL). Students in the program can work toward a Woodwork Career Alliance Passport, which verifies their tool proficiencies and allows them to document their skills, which are maintained in a national database. Contact: Dean Mattson, Mattson Interiors John Stearns, Peyton K12 Tim Kistler, Peyton K12 Scott Campbell, Widefield District 3  Resources: CDE Promising Practice Widefield / Peyton Partner to Create Skilled-Trades School (The Gazette)  

The Colorado Community College System is a national leader in offering a new way to display industry-recognized, employment focused credentials that validate core employability and technical skills–Digital Badges. The Open Badge Standard enables the badge holder or badge viewer to verify the skills and mastery through verified organizations attaching data and evidence of skill attainment to their file. Digital Badges can be more dynamic than a resume, with new skills, competencies, and knowledge automatically published, and updated, after the badge is issued.

CCCS Credentials

Aurora Public Schools digital badging program provides students the opportunity to demonstrate their achievement of 21st century (Essential) skills acquired not only in traditional academic settings, but also in their communities and job experiences. Digital Badges help students open doors by giving them the opportunity to tell a story about what they know and what they can do. 

Amanda Rose Fuller, Digital Badge Partner
Jarred Frank, Programs and Partnerships

Digital Badges Google Page
Education Week article