By Lisa Hudson
Education provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to be informed citizens, productive workers, and responsible community members. Meeting one of these goals—preparing students for work—is the main goal of career and technical education (CTE, formerly known as vocational education). To monitor CTE in the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) produces a comprehensive set of statistical data on CTE at the secondary and postsecondary levels, as well as on adult preparation for work. These statistics, and related reports, are available on the CTE Statistics website.
NCES recently released data related to preparation for work, which was collected as part of the 2016 Adult Education and Training Survey (ATES). The ATES asked a nationally-representative sample of adults about their attainment of two often-overlooked work credentials—licenses and certifications—and about their completion of work experience programs (such as internships and apprenticeships). The survey also examined the role of education in helping adults attain these credentials and complete these programs.
The data show that 21 percent of adults have a currently active license or certification, with 18 percent reporting they have a license and 6 percent reporting they have a certification (some adults have both). Additionally, completion of degree programs is related to the attainment of these work credentials. For example, having a certification or license is more common among adults who have a college degree than among adults with lower levels of education (see figure). In addition, about two-thirds of the adults who have completed a certification or licensing program (67 percent) did so in conjunction with coursetaking after high school.
Findings are similar for work experience programs. Overall, 21 percent of adults have completed a work experience program, and 14 percent of adults have completed a work experience program that was part of an educational program after high school.
Finally, the ATES showed that work credentials and work experience programs are particularly common in the health care field. In fact, health care was the most common field in which both licenses and certifications were held (31 percent of credentialed adults), and the most common field in which adults had completed a work experience program (26 percent of program completers) .
The information discussed in this blog is drawn from the ATES “First Look” report. The CTE Statistics website also includes a summary of these key findings, and within the next year additional ATES statistics will be added to the website. To sign up for automatic email notifications on when new material is added to the CTE Statistics website, visit the IES newsflash (under National Center for Education Statistics, check the box for “Adult and Career Education”). We look forward to sharing future results with you!
By Sharon Boivin
In the late 2000s, rising unemployment due to the recession led policy makers to begin asking questions about the qualifications of the American workforce, such as:
- How many US adults have an education or training credential that is recognized by employers?
- How many adults complete at least one year of education or training beyond high school? Do they also earn a credential?
- What are the employment outcomes for adults with these credentials?
But key data to answer these questions were missing. The federal government had collected data on educational attainment and employment for many years, but did not regularly collect information on the number of adults with work-related credentials—
- An industry-recognized certification shows that someone has demonstrated he or she has the knowledge and skills to perform a job.
- An occupational license gives someone the legal authority to perform a job, and typically is also based on demonstrated knowledge and skills.
- An educational certificate shows that someone has completed an occupational or technical course of study at a technical school, college, or university.
As the Department of Education’s research and statistics arm, IES recognized the importance of filling this data gap so that policy officials could have complete and accurate information for better decision making. Since 2009, the IES’ National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has funded and staffed a rigorous survey item development process under the guidance of the Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment (GEMEnA).
Based on GEMEnA’s work, in January of 2014 the Census Bureau released the first official federal statistics on the number of adults with these kinds of work-related credentials. This year the Current Population Survey and the National Survey of College Graduates are collecting data on certifications and licenses that will greatly expand our ability to analyze their value in the workplace. In 2016, NCES will field an Adult Training and Education Survey for the first time as part of the National Household Education Survey.
Rigorous survey item development is time consuming and expensive. By investing in this work now, IES has helped to ensure that policy makers will have high quality data on education, training, and credentials to inform policy for years to come.