The Use and Value of Manufacturing Credentials to Workers and Employers

Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Workcred has conducted a follow-up study to better understand the results of its first report, Examining the Quality, Market Value, and Effectiveness of Manufacturing Credentials in the United States (also funded by NIST MEP), which examined how credentials were being used by U.S. manufacturers in their hiring and retention practices, and how credentialing could be improved to advance the manufacturing industry.

The U.S. manufacturing sector continues to be central to the national economy, and relies on a highly skilled workforce of more than 12 million workers. The majority of jobs in manufacturing are likely to require a high school diploma or less. Because of this, we discovered that credentials have uneven use in the manufacturing industry and are not routinely required or used as a major factor in hiring or promotion decisions.

In order to more effectively use credentials and support a competitive manufacturing workforce, Workcred developed new research to understand how manufacturing employers and workers value credentials, which credentials they value, and how they determine whether or not to pursue additional credentials.

The primary research questions addressed by this research are:

  • How are U.S. manufacturing employers and workers using credentials?
  • What is the return on employer and employee investments in credentials?

To address these questions, Workcred conducted direct interviews with frontline workers (credential holders), hiring managers, and supervisors at small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities. By examining the viewpoints from these three different stakeholder groups, Workcred anticipated a more nuanced understanding of the use and value of credentials in this important sector. Regardless of the geographic location, industry, or job role held, there were two common themes in manufacturing that were uncovered as part of this study: a value for credentials and confusion about the worth of specific credentials.

More information and outcomes of the research are detailed in the report, Examining the Return on Investment of Manufacturing Credentials. Specifically, the report is broken down into three parts:

Part 1: Background and Methodology describes the types of facilities and individuals which participated in the research and analysis of the interviews. It also considers the likely self-selection bias of the participants who volunteered for the interviews, and the potential impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on participation.
Part 2: Results and Discussion details the analysis of the interviews, highlighting common themes and attitudes about credentials and their use in manufacturing. Gaps in knowledge capture and use of credentials are described, as well as attitudes toward credential attainment.
Part 3: Recommendations lists three sets of recommendations: Recommendations to Support More Effective Use of Credentials by Manufacturing Facilities, Recommendations for Implementation by Policymakers, and Recommendations for Future Research. These recommendations are meant to be practical and actionable to immediately make an impact to support the manufacturing workforce.
Funded by:
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