Volume 27, No. 2: Career Pathways—Gateway to the Future

Mapping Upward Project Helping Colleges Expand Stackable Credentials

Hope Cotner, Vice President, U.S. Projects, CORD; Mapping Upward Project Director

What’s all the fuss about stackable credentials these days? What gives a credential “labor-market value” and who decides? How can you actively engage employers in meaningful conversations about credentials and keep them engaged? These questions and many more are being explored by colleges participating in the Mapping Upward project, an initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Led by CORD and partner organization Social Policy Research Associates, the project is providing technical assistance (TA) to groups of community colleges as they work to embed stackable, industry-recognized credentials within technical associate degree programs. Working in sector-focused networks, colleges receive customized TA virtually and in person from subject matter experts and a dedicated TA coach who works to help colleges advance their efforts in stackable credential design through action items designed to address local needs.

Mapping Upward colleges, including their sector of focus and state, are:

  • Bakersfield College, Shasta College, and Reedley College (Horticulture/CA)

  • Forsyth Technical Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, Isothermal Community College, Piedmont Community College, and Robeson Community College (Advanced Manufacturing/NC)

  • Luzerne County Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and Northampton Community College (Advanced Manufacturing/PA)

  • Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Mitchell Community College (Advanced Manufacturing/NC)

Each college drafted action plans that tackle local priorities for stackable credential design and the essential elements needed to support it, including but not limited to employer engagement, non-credit/credit integration, standards development, and expansion of industry certifications. TA to help the colleges realize the goals identified in their action plans began in August 2016 and will conclude in July 2017. In addition to the TA, a number of resources have been developed to assist the participating colleges including a toolkit, online repository, series of podcasts, and webinars. The toolkit will be available to the public upon conclusion of the project in September.

The Mapping Upward podcast series is currently available via the project’s page on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network website. The podcasts feature community college professionals known for their work on stackable credentials discussing various aspects of program design and partnership building. The podcasts highlight specific strategies colleges have used to collaborate with employers to build curriculum around stackable credentials that are embedded with industry certifications. The podcasts feature how-to advice from three experienced practitioners:

  • Podcast 1: Implementing and Sustaining Stackable Credentials Across the Institution
    Featured Guest: Dr. Maria Coons, Chief of Staff and Vice President of Workforce, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, Harper College, Palatine, IL

  • Podcast 2: Aligning Curriculum to Industry Certifications
    Dr. Annette Parker, President, South Central College, North Mankato and Faribault, MN

  • Podcast 3: Building Lasting Partnerships with Business and Industry
    Debbie Davidson, Vice President of Business & Workforce Solutions, Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, WI

Listen to the podcasts and learn more about the project here.

Stay tuned for more resources from the Mapping Upward project before the end of the year.

For more information, contact the author at hcotner@cord.org.