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Watch: “Jeff Barrett presentation from Rethink Ed 2018” | 18:40

“What is happening is that typically, in an educational environment, what makes some systemic change is business and industry really pulling the levers,” says Jeff Barratt, education entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation. As the employee marketplace shrinks, due to factors like low unemployment and the so-called graying out of mid-life career professionals, businesses are forced to look beyond traditional baccalaureate degrees as hiring criteria. They reach a point where he says they realize that to fill the void, “We’ve got to get really creative and innovative..that entrepreneurial aspect of getting this (talent) pipeline developed pretty quickly.”

Enter concepts like certificates, stackable credentials, permeability, and apprenticeships.

Barratt explains, “The reality is that people from the business industry side are starting to rethink their hiring practices. That’s going to push educators to realize, ‘Wow. I need to really rethink how I’m educating people.’ The fastest growing credential in this country? Certificates. Not the two-year degree, not the four-year degree, certificates. From a Wharton executive MBA- type certificate to an entry-level certificate in Emily Griffith Technical College.”

Stackable credential describes layering credentials on top of one another – displaying the competency, aptitude, and attitude that companies look for today. For example, in the IT field, “You start with a degree. You begin as a desktop support tech. Get your aPlus certification. There’s one credential. Move into network Administration. Get some more certification. Industry recognized, certified, portable. Stack those credentials up and you can go and work and earn while you learn,” according to Barratt.

He uses the Swiss model to explain permeability: “You might start in a vocational track, switch gears, and maybe get a PhD in science. Those credits will transfer over seamlessly. If you want to work on trains, great. You may switch gears and want to become an engineer and design the next super train. They’ve figured out how to do that. In this country, we still have that lack of permeability, to take credits from a series of multiple sources – the military, community college, concurrent enrollment – and build a portfolio that is portable, that you can actually take from school to school to school and not be penalized for those experiences.”

Filling the candidate pipeline also means applying old methods to new businesses, as in the case of apprenticeship. “We’ve had apprenticeships for a long time, [it’s] a pretty good model of how to train people. Now people are discovering it’s not just about ironworkers and sheet metal workers and plumbers and pipe fitters. It’s about IT professionals and healthcare. They’re starting to look at apprenticeships as a model for educating our workforce. Not just entry level, but incumbent,,” says Barratt.

“I think people are getting tired of the same old thing,” says Barratt. “I think they’re starting to realize that, ‘We’ve got to make a difference in being a change agent.’ I think nationally, we need to build these thought leaders, these guiding coalition groups that can really push change from a systemic level.”