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The Newest Economy

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

by Gordon Freedman

“The Newest Economy: Welcome to the Credential Currency Revolution” explores how to operate in a marketplace of sellers (institutional programs) and buyers (employers) as a method of self-regulating the alignment of academic and training offerings with available jobs and careers.

Unlike many nations in the world, the U.S. does not separate students into academic and occupational or trade tracks prior to or during high school. While the U.S. historically had in-depth vocational programs in high schools and continuing education noncredit certifications in colleges, these offerings were de-emphasized in favor of “college for all.”

As a result, the problem now exists that there is no mechanism, government or privately led, to allow courses, programs and training to align with job and career hiring trends. There are proximate measures from job postings culled from the Web and analyses from state employment records, but they are not sufficient to make predictions of where institutions should concentrate their offerings, or what individuals should pursue.

In “The Newest Economy,” Gordon Freedman, president and founder of NLET, describes the broken chain of education and training that stretches across high school, career and technical education, community college, workforce development, university continuing education and into a disconnected and unpredictable labor market. Freedman suggests that credentials alignment may be maximized through the lens of a marketplace.

“The Newest Economy” makes the point that a way to bring coherence to the types of education and training offerings and their connection to available jobs and viable careers is to first view “credentials” broadly. Meaning that a skills badge, technical certification and academic degree are all credentials.

“The Newest Economy” advocates for the formation of a Credential Alliance that includes multiple types of stakeholders and stewards. Contributors to the Newest Economy paper include the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), Credential Engine and GoEducate, Inc., who are jointly exploring the formation of the Credential Alliance to examine integrated solutions to power a more coherent education-to-employment pipeline.

The National Laboratory for Education Transformation, NLET, released “The Newest Economy: Welcome to the Credential Currency Revolution” May 2012 in order to unravel the complex relationship in the U.S. between academic degree attainment and occupational certification and their relationship to the current needs of the employment market. In “The Newest Economy,” author Gordon Freedman describes the broken chain of credential management across education and training that is disconnected from a labor market that, notwithstanding the pandemic, has millions of open jobs. “There is no mechanism to link students, adult learners and jobseekers across multiple institutions and agencies in their quest to figure out what education and training matters for which jobs in the market,” says Freedman.

The blockage, the paper concludes, is the differences in traditional institutional practices and policies in high schools, colleges, universities and training and how those fail to communicate the value of their graduates or certificate holders to employers.

“The Newest Economy” suggests that a functional Internet marketplace model, built upon earlier programmatic could use modern technology and data analytics to actively give different values to credentials—badges, certification or degrees—based on their success in landing jobs for credential holders.

“As states continue down the road to recovery from the pandemic, building a more resilient economic future will include equipping learners, workers and employers with the data they need to clearly identify which pathways will lead to the outcomes they seek,” said Scott Cheney, CEO of Credential Engine, which operates state open and transparent credential registries in twenty-six states aligning credentials with employment categories

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