How do student credentials stack up to industry demand?

That’s the question ExcelinEd hopes to answer through a partnership with Burning Glass Technologies. Together, they’ve brought us Credentials Matter, a detailed analysis of student and employer data that can be filtered by career, credential or state.

The project emphasizes that industry-recognized credentials can offer valuable opportunities to students. However, if the credentials offered are not aligned with the needs of local employers, students are at risk for entering low-paying jobs with minimal upward mobility.

At JerseyCAN, we enthusiastically support the idea of an education system that works with employers to best prepare students for the future of work. However, this effort requires a thorough understanding of the current New Jersey employment and credential landscape. So how is New Jersey doing?

According to the data, our state’s top five credentials by demand are:

  • Microsoft Office Specialist (109,358 credentials demanded)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (10,816 demanded)
  • Automotive Service Excellence Certification (6,293 demanded)
  • Certified Medical Assistant (5,880 demanded)
  • Dental Assistant (5,356 demanded)

Meanwhile, the top five credentials earned are:

  • Basic First Aid (963 credentials earned)
  • Automotive Service Excellence Certification (622 earned)
  • Adobe Certified Associate (492 earned)
  • OSHA 10-Hour General (412 earned)
  • Hair Stylist/Cosmetologist/Barber License (403)

These numbers indicate that is a clear mismatch between demand and supply in the Garden State. All of the top five credentials by demand are considered “very undersupplied.” As for the top five credentials earned, three (First Aid, OSHA and Hair Stylist) are considered “very oversupplied.”

Interestingly, the other two (automotive service and Adobe) are also ranked “very undersupplied” despite being relatively popular credentials. Compare the Automotive Excellence Service Certification between the two lists – 622 credentials were earned, while 6,293 are needed. Adobe Certified Associate didn’t quite make it to the top five by demand – it was only number seven, with 3,868 credentials demanded. But the mere 492 credentials earned still leaves a large gap.

What does it say when the most popular credentials in the state are still not a match to industry demand?

This data indicates the industry credentials are not often pursued in New Jersey. Despite demand, the number of credentials earned remains low – especially when you consider the over 1.3 million public school students in the state, around 200,000 of whom would likely be eligible for such credentials.

More research is needed to determine the “why” behind this gap between demand and supply.

Do students not know these options exist? What about parents, teachers and school administrators? Are students who express interest in these credentials being discouraged from pursuing them?

We believe there is still great potential in increased collaboration between employers and the education system, and that industry credentials should play a part in these efforts. However, much work remains to be done.

We appreciate ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Industries for their research and dedication to this important subject. To read the full report explaining their work, look here.


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