The Pnyx: On credentials

Joshua Schuetz
Staff Writer

How do we prepare American workers for the economy of the 21st century, while maintaining, restoring, and strengthening the American Dream?

It’s a simple question with a devilishly complex answer. Education is rightly held as a path to upward mobility, but we cannot go back to school for everything. Imagine if every single skill required a four-year degree (or even a two-year degree) as a credential! 

Degrees have their purpose, of course, and they will always play an important role. However, to make sure that workers can retrain or upgrade their skills in a way that is efficient and accessible.

There are numerous ways to do that. One is to have universities, governments, and businesses (among others) work on creating one-year of half-year programs that can certify a person in particular areas as needed. 

Companies need to find some worker retraining; the onus must not fall on the worker alone, or on the rest of society. If businesses wish to benefit from social institutions, then they need to put some skin in the game. 

Finally, it needs to be recognized that the age wherein a person could expect to have a single career throughout their life is over. Our institutions are not particularly favorable towards career-switching, even as our economy increasingly requires it. That is largely because of how intensive our credential programs are. The best way to fix that is to combine company and government sponsored retraining with one-year programs and boot camps, particularly in sectors like tech and healthcare, as well as maximizing opportunities for continuing education.

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