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Using Skill Standards and Certifications in Workforce Investment Board Programs

Source: Washington, DC: National Association of Workforce Boards, 2002.
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Nationally-recognized, industry-based skill standards and occupational certifications promote certificate portability, skill transferability, worker mobility, and education and training consistency throughout the United States.

They provide significant, clear-cut, tangible benefits to Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), other regulatory agencies, employers, education and training providers, and individuals.

Direct benefits to WIBs from incorporating skill standards and certifications into programs include:

  • Better allocation and coordination of training resources.
  • Increased operational effectiveness and accountability.
  • Enhanced program quality and responsiveness.
  • Improved participant results such as gains in knowledge/skill levels, employment, job retention and earnings.

Business and industry are the driving forces for the development and use of skill standards and certifications in workforce education and training. As such, their incorporation into WIB activities helps to align these efforts directly with overall WIB goals and accountability requirements. Their adoption and use also ensures that WIB results are immediately relevant and of greater long-term value to employers and individuals.

Specifically, such skill standards and occupational certifications enable employers to:

  • Apply valid, systematic evaluation of actual competency attainment.
  • Hire the right person with the right capabilities the first time, thus countering the "revolving door" syndrome.
  • Focus limited training resources more effectively on specific knowledge and skill gaps.
  • Reduce the need and expense for worker remediation and the incidence of worker turnover.
  • Create an appropriately skilled and validated pool of workers for the "real" jobs that exist in a given locality, state or region.
  • State and local WIBs were established as part of revitalization of the nation's major job training programs under the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. They have key policy and implementation responsibilities as partners in the national effort to enhance the skill quality and job-readiness of the U.S. workforce.

    This report focuses on the role of nationally-recognized, industry-based skill standards and occupational certifications in helping WIBs meet challenges and responsibilities. Skill standards and certifications are defined. Returns on investment through certificate portability, skill transferability, worker mobility and education and training consistency, are underscored.

    National Skill Standards Board (NSSB) activities are examined as these relate to helping WIBs, state and local education agencies, postsecondary technical and community colleges, and others use industry-based skill standards and certifications in various education and training delivery systems. Some current applications of skill standards and certifications in nearly 40 states are categorized.

    Practical tools are identified for WIBs to analyze, select and incorporate industry-based skill standards and occupational certifications into training and placement activities.

    The major policy and procedure requirements of WIA are reviewed, with five clear pragmatic policy recommendations for WIBs using skill standards and occupational certifications. "The Unified Approach" and its inherent value are introduced, whereby individuals trained in the same occupation anywhere in a state are prepared to pass the related industry-validated certification examination, regardless of the source of training.

    NSSB proposes an easily-replicable NSSB 22-Step Process for identifying and implementing industry-based occupational certifications that match local, regional, and state determined workforce needs. This process offers WIBs a mechanism for identifying, selecting and integrating skill standards and certifications into their program activities.

    The Work Readiness Certification addresses unique aspects of a local job market. Its value as a key complement to nationally-recognized occupational certifications is highlighted.

    The report closes with a brief resource guide for WIBs seeking further assistance.