As the economy recovers, Americans with less education are most likely to be left behind. Employers will play a central role in helping these individuals reskill, upskill, and get back to work. How do Americans feel about hiring practices and the education and training opportunities employers provide? What are employers’ perceptions of their role in the recovery? What barriers are Americans facing that educators and employers can tackle together?Join us at 2 p.m. EST Feb. 24, 2021, as Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights researchers and guest panelists discuss our recent findings and the implications for skills-based hiring, upskilling, and employer-provided education. As part of the ongoing Public Viewpoint research started last year, the center has talked to tens of thousands of Americans about their experiences with work and education during the pandemic. These insights are intended to help education and training providers, policymakers, employers, and individuals who are navigating the COVID-19 crisis.

Webinar Transcript

Moderator: Paul Fain, senior fellow, Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights

Presenter: Andrew R. Hanson, director of research, Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights

Panelists: Patti Constantakis, Director, Economic Opportunity, 

Martin Kurzweil, Director of Educational Transformation Program, Ithaka S+R


Paul Fain: Hello everybody, welcome to the event. Thanks for joining. The event is How to Help Americans Get Back to Work. I’m Paul Fain, a former longtime editor and reporter with Inside Higher Ed and a senior fellow with the Strada Education Network Center for Consumer Insights. I don’t need to tell all of you that the pandemic has dramatically worsened in equity in this country, with millions of workers using jobs and wages. 

The worst effects being disproportionately felt by Black, Latino, and lower income Americans. Much of the job loss may be permanent as COVID and the recession also are speeding up anticipated changes to the economy. As the McKinsey global institute estimated in a report last week, the pandemic has accelerated existing trends in remote work, E- commerce, and automation with up to 25 percent more workers and previously estimated potentially moving to switch occupations.

We’ll start with a rundown of newly released findings from Strada’s Public Viewpoint research which is drawn from nationally representative surveys on public perceptions of employer practices and responsibilities on training, hiring and talent development. Andrew Hanson, Strada’s director of research, will describe the Public Viewpoint findings. 

I’m excited to introduce two experts for a moderated discussion. Patti Constantkis, director of economic opportunity for, the philanthropic arm of Walmart which is the world’s largest employer. And then, Martin Kurzweil, director of the Educational Transformation Program at Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit research group. After the discussion, I’ll leave time for audience questions, but you can ask those questions now throughout the event. I will direct some of them to Patti and Martin. 

Without further ado, let’s turn it over to Andrew.

Andrew Hanson: Thanks Paul. On behalf of Strada welcome, and thank you all for joining us today. We continue to be in a crisis in which millions of Americans are struggling to find work between October and January. We added a net of only 100,000 jobs in the economy, which means we’re still down 9 million jobs from our pre-pandemic peak and 13 million jobs from our pre crisis trajectory. Paul alluded to some of this, but you know many of those jobs are not going to come back. 

In the recovery for many reasons, automation, for example, tends to accelerate in recessions, and this is why it is so critical to help workers reskill and upskill for the new and different jobs that are going to come back online. That’s a central part of the solution of getting Americans back on the feedback to work.

10 million Americans were unemployed as of January, more than half of those were long term unemployed, which means that they’ve been out of work for at least four months. That exceeds 3 million workers who have a high school education or less as well five and a half million who have less than a BA (Bachelor of Arts) as Paul mentioned that includes a disproportionate share of black Americans and Latinos.

So that’s the context that brings us to this month’s edition of the Public Viewpoints. Those of you who have been with us over the past 10 months will know that our topics have largely focused on understanding Americans perspectives on education and training, work, but this month we’re going to shift gears and focus on employers and how they can help Americans get back to work with an emphasis on hiring that reselling that schooling and advancement.

A little housekeeping before we dig in our analysis this week is going to leverage three different survey instrument which you see here the first is our Public Viewpoint survey of 1000 Americans 18 or older that was fielded in January. The 2020 strategy Gallup education consumer survey of 23,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 and then, our strategy Gallup employer survey of 1100 employees involved in hiring decisions.

So, we analyzed two topics, the first is Americans’ perspectives on firing and advancement and there’s some important context that I’d like to discuss before we get into the findings. We now have the job market, in which we have too many workers chasing too few jobs, the slack Labor market which ultimately means that employers can become more selective in the last recession, the great recession of 2008.

Employers were elected to become more selective by increasing the requirements of college degrees for the job openings, especially bachelor’s and graduate degrees and we’re now at a point where three and four new job postings require a bachelor’s degree even though two out of three workers in the job market don’t have them.

So groups like Opportunity Work,the Markle Foundation, and many others have been encouraging employers to drop the generic college degree requirements from their job of means in favor of skills-based hiring. What they argue is that these generic degree requirements ultimately end up shutting out many of our most vulnerable citizens, including the disproportionate share of people of color from opportunities that they are otherwise qualified for, except for the fact that they lacked that degree or credential.

In many cases, they have the requisite skills, therefore, can do the job, but because they don’t have that degree, employers filter them out. So, we thought it would be valuable to ask the public’s perspective on hiring specifically with respect to opportunities for these skilled workers without degrees. 

We asked our survey respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with these two statements. First, employers should hire job candidates who have skilled work experience, even if they don’t have a degree. Second, in my field employers actually do hire job candidates who have skills and work experience, but not a college degree.

What we see is that 69 percent of Americans agree that employers should hire skilled workers without degrees, but less than half of them say that their employers actually do. As I sort of measure when employers acquire these bachelor’s degrees they’re ultimately shutting 70 percent of black Americans and 80 percent of Latinos from consideration.

So it may come as no surprise that black Americans and Latinos are more likely to view our hiring and advancement systems as unfair. Last fall, we asked our survey respondents whether they felt that their opportunities to find a good job or advance at work were limited because either the system was unfair where they felt that there weren’t opportunities for people who look like them. 

What we found was that Black Americans and the teams were substantially more likely to agree with those reasons, compared to white Americans. So, over the past two years, my colleague, Holly Custer at Strada Institute has been interviewing dozens of adult learners to uplift their voices.

I now want to share with you a short clip from her interview with a gentleman named Rodney from Rhode island, which really puts a pin in in the challenge that we’re facing. 

Rodney: For the first time, the relevance of not having a decree became manifest because, even though I had years upon years over 20 years of experience doing all these different things, the first question that we’re asking is ‘so where’d you go to school?’ The last time I actually had to go looking for a job we did things like talk to people face to face and that’s completely gone now and you just end up getting put into a slot. As a result, they don’t know who you are they just look at has he going to school, no so, then you go into that pile.

Andrew Hanson: So,even before the pandemic, we’ve heard from so many learners who are just saying that I know I can do this job if I just had the chance. We have also asked both workers and employers about which factors are either very or extremely important in hiring and advancement through our 2018 Strada Gallup Education, Strada Gallup Employer survey, and our 2020 Strada Gallup Education Consumer survey. The results for that employer survey on the left side of the screen there and the results for the workers are on the right. 

For workers, we asked them both about what mattered. We asked them both about what mattered in getting their current job, as well as what matters for getting a raise or promotion or a new job. We’ve put those factors into three big buckets: skills and work experience, which is, you see, in green there, education, which is in the dark blue, and it includes things like education level whether you have a college degree, whether you have a non degree credential your field of study, and your GPA, and then the last bucket is the your professional network or other connections, which is in the light blue.

So the first thing to say is obviously education and skills are not mutually exclusive; they’re complements. Degree and non degree programs are a primary means through which people acquire skills, though it is often the case that most of what workers learn occurs in a work setting, so the question here is whether and how employers recognize learning that occurs outside of those degree programs.

They are two things I want to highlight about the data that we see here. First, both employers, you can see in the green bar, both employers and workers value skills and work experience the most. They say that’s what’s most important among those three categories. In all three cases we get 85 percent or more of workers and employers saying that skills and work experience are very or extremely important.

Second, interestingly there’s kind of a big gap between workers’ belief that education is important to employers. Workers believe that education factors are a lot more important, more than 50 percent say that education factors are important compared to 24 percent of employers. In a sense, employers are conflicted in spite of the ubiquity of degree requirements, most of them are actually saying that they primarily care about skills and work experience. 

This data suggests that both workers and employers should be open toward a shift to skills based hiring and learning. So our second topic for this month is perspectives on employer provided education benefits. Even in a down economy, employers continue to be interested in sponsoring learning in order to attract, retain, and develop their talent. So on this topic, we asked whether employer sponsored learning would make you more likely to accept the job or stay with an employer and we found that,irrespective of education level, around two and three workers said it would, so it is important.

We then asked where they would prefer that this learning take place; with your employer at a college or university, a non college training provider, or learning independently learning on your own. There are a couple of interesting points that I want to highlight here first, is that the preferences are diverse. Every category had at least 10 percent saying that it was their preference and so, there’s not a one size fits all.

If you’re an employer trying to facilitate education and training, you’ve got to offer a wide variety of options that are going to suit the needs of all learners. Second is that a substantial share of Americans about two and five want to learn in a setting in which their employer is involved in facilitating. So we see it between employers or partnerships with colleges, between colleges and poor employers. For the third, we did see an interesting difference across education levels here, and it’s specifically that Americans without college degrees are twice as likely to prefer non college training providers and 50 percent more likely to prefer learning on their own, in comparison to college degree holders.

Finally, the question that always comes up in in these conversations is ‘This all sounds great but who’s going to pay for it?’’ That is, who should pay for education and training, So we asked our survey respondents to assign a specific percentage, and they could say anything between zero and 100 percent to each of these categories.  The share of education and training that should be funded by state and federal governments,individuals and their families, and employers, and so what I’m showing you here is the average of those.

What we see in the end, is that Americans believe that the funding of education and training should ultimately be a shared responsibility and that’s true,irrespective of education level. We did have some outliers who said it should have been 100 percent, are entirely funded by one category and another. But by and large, Americans agree with the notion that this is a shared responsibility.

So with that, as always, I want to encourage you to follow up with us at or you can visit our Public Viewpoint webpage at You can go and explore these data yourself and view the results from prior months. But I do want to offer a few more thoughts before we hop into the panel discussion and hear from Patti and Martin. 

Number one,with respect to skills based hiring, I think that this is often framed as a false choice, meaning that if you favor skills based hiring you’re against degrees. On the contrary, we know that the returns to learning are high and they continue to grow. Degree programs are the most traveled pathway to develop skills; a bachelor’s degree, for example, is the gold standard of that. So it is possible to both encourage more Americans to complete degrees, as well as provide opportunities to workers who don’t have those degrees, but have acquired the skills through some alternative routes. The second is kind of the million dollar question here, which I haven’t touched on but I’m sure we’ll get into it in the panel discussion is how do you validate skills or learning more generally?

One is credentials as they exist today have their own set of problems. I think a few weeks ago, certainly within the past month, Credential Engine reported that there’s nearly a million different or unique credentials in the labor market. Many people, many workers have multiple credentials so there is this Tower of Babel issue with the explosion of non-degree credentials, in particular, over the past decade. It’s very hard for employers and workers or anyone to really make sense of this. It is one of the reasons that companies are more and more offering their own credential and then the other piece of that is there has been this great deal of innovation and pre-hire assessments which have the potential to expand opportunities to this population of skilled workers without degrees. 

Martin, I know, has done some research on this and really great work on the landscape of those pre-hire assessments. It’s an incredibly challenging problem with you know not not an easy fix but there are alternatives to degree-based hiring that are being embraced more and more. The last thing I’ll say here is that promoting opportunities for skilled workers without degrees I think has been an underrated strategy for the end of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. We’ve heard from employers who said,  if I only hire workers with degrees it’s simply not going to be possible to achieve my goal of hiring a diverse workforce. So, in addition to helping workers re-skill and up-skill, how we identify talent is an essential element for how equitable this recovery is going to be. 

And so with that, thank you. Paul, I’ll turn it over to you.

Paul Fain: Thanks, Andrew. Lots to chew on there.  I’m just going to very briefly give our experts brief bios and then get into the discussion. Martin Kurzweil leads Ithaca’s Educational Transformation Program, whi ch is focused on students’ post secondary access and success. Some of the topics Martin works on include predictive analytics, proactive advising, adaptive learning platforms, course redesign, alternative credentials, accreditation, big data ethics, and the process of institutional change. Martin previously oversaw school evaluation and research for the NYC Department of Education, which I did not know.  I did know that when I was with Inside Higher Ed I heavily cribbed for Martin’s work at Ithaca, particularly on alternative credentials. Patti Constantakis leads the Walmart Foundation’s equitable talent systems portfolio which seeks to engage employers and more equitable hiring advancement practices.

She previously worked at digital promise and nonprofit group or she focused on using technology to build the literacy and numeracy skills of our low skilled frontline workers. She also developed a competency based digital skills program for non traditional adult learners and workers so let’s start with Patti. Obviously, Walmart has a lot going on in the education and training spaces. Can you talk a little bit about your role with the Foundation and then give us an overview of the various projects Walmart has going on? 

Patti Constantakis: Sure, I want to thank you guys for having me today on this webinar. So as Paul said I lead our equitable talent systems program at, which is the Walmart Foundation. I’ll tell you a little bit about my role because it reflects a bit about how Walmart in general works. My role is really philanthropy, it’s part of Walmart or the Foundation but that’s one half of my role. The other half of my role is really as a consultant to the business because much of the work that we invest in as a foundation is really about understanding and learning the kinds of things we’re trying to do so that we can actually incorporate them into our business. The business believes heavily in this notion of shared value, we believe that what is good for society is also good for business and we want to actually act on all of that, in particular, around human capital.

We believe that really investing in our workers is not only good for them and good for society, but in the end it’s also really good for business. We will do better if we do that kind of investing, so over the last five years or so we’ve been really rethinking the way we do things. We’ve been rethinking roles for our workers kind of all across the business. We’ve been rethinking career pathways, we believe in growing our own talent, so I don’t know how many of you guys know this, but Doug McMillan who is our CEO started in our Walmart stores as an associate there, and he spent 25 years and he’s got it. That philosophy in that culture runs deep.What we discovered was if we’re going to, if we want those kinds of career pathways we’re going to need to invest in the up-skilling and re-skilling of folks as we go, especially as technology is changing the way we do business period, right?.

So we discovered that all along the way, and we’re like okay now, what do we do about this? And so ultimately, ,and we can get into more there’s a whole lot I wanted to react to that Andrew was saying. I was like ‘Oh yeah, that and this!’ Let me just say that over those five years, what we tried to do was really think deeply about that up-skilling, re-skilling piece, and how to do that. We came up with two big programs that probably most of you have heard of. 

First is our Academies program, which is really geared towards our store level employees and growing their skills and there’s like 200 of them around the country they are hands on they are integrated into the workday. It is very specific training that ultimately is designed to grow ultimately, to get you to be promoted from one place to the next. The nice thing about that program too is that, depending on the training that you’re actually doing, you actually can get college credit for some of that so that is really cool and I’m like ‘I think that’s cool’. The second big program that again many of you may have heard of is our “Live Better U” program, which we you know affectionately call, it’s a dollar a day for a college degree, which it actually is that. Not only do we call it that it is, that is, in fact, the idea. We’re partnered with Guild and what Guild does for us is help us through their platform, allow our associates to really get both college degrees, you get your high school diploma, you can get trade certificates, and certification there’s several things there. and we’ve got you know I could go into more detail, and perhaps we will, in a bit, but that’s the basics of what we offer at this point.

Paul Fain: Thanks Patti and we will give you a chance to respond to Andrew’s presentation, but first let’s turn to Martin and, if you want to give the lay of the land in response to some of what Patti said.

Martin Kurzweil: Sure, thank you, Paul. Thanks to Strada for inviting me and Andrew and Patti for those great opening comments.So as Paul mentioned, I lead the educational transformation program to get us at SNR and we study the efficacy and implementation of program policies,innovations that have the potential to help students advanced their educational and career goals, and we have a particular emphasis on lowering calm and by five students who historically have been underserved by higher education. 

So that’s kind of the perspective that I bring to bear and I thought I could start by complementing Patti’s introduction to the efforts at  Walmart which are you know, a huge ecosystem unto itself with sort of the contacts, some of the broader conditions and trends touching on some of the things that Paul and Andrew mentioned. So the first thing i’ll just note is that the moment we’re in the code recession is not like other recent recessions. So to state the obvious, we’re still in the midst of a horrific pandemic that is killing thousands of people. It’s restricting movement and the ability to do things face to face safely, it’s massively disrupting schooling and childcare, something that I, you know, feel personally. 

It’s hard to imagine getting a lot of the people who lost their jobs back to work without getting the pandemic under control but as Paul explained, there are also some types of jobs that are not likely to come back at all, it is not in the form that they were in before the pandemic, and that is the acceleration of a shift in the need for training and different types of skills that’s really been underway for a long time. Unfortunately, the pandemic conditions are also affecting the pursuit of education and training, which we typically see during recessions.

So we’re not seeing the surge in adults pursuing higher education as we’ve seen in other recent economic downturns. Instead we’re seeing huge declines in community college enrollment excuse me. In particular, community college enrollment was down about nine and a half percent in the fall, which is a huge huge amount.

There are some programs that have seen an uptick in enrollment of credit and non credit programs offered by large scale online providers, both for profit and not for profit and short term certificate programs for career focus credentials. Many of these share features that make them appealing in the current circumstances, they may be faster to complete and more flexible than traditional higher end programs; They’re perceived to be more job related. The scale and variety of types of offerings have increased significantly since the last recession as Andrew mentioned. But while these programs have facial appeal in practice, it is extraordinarily difficult for a learner to navigate the landscape of offerings on their own.

It’s just there’s just not good information and not acceptable information to understand which have job market value which are fairly priced, et cetera. Well, we don’t have a lot of data from this current period. We do know that, in the recent past, the pursuit of non degree credentials and learning experiences has tended to replicate or even exacerbate and equality to put a point on it black and Latino women have been much more likely to obtain non degree credentials associated with the lowest earnings.

Things like certificates in Cosmetology and certain health care certificates and, by contrast, why even men have been much more likely to attain non degree credentials associated with the highest earnings like certifications in it, or manufacturing. It’s also worth noting that those higher earning potential credential is intended to be stacked on top of associates or bachelor’s degrees two people earning them already have this degree.While the lower earnings credentials have been burned by people without degrees,  those credentials often don’t help them make progress towards their degrees, they don’t stack.

So as interest in these alternative programs peaksWhat can we do to avoid these inequities that we’ve seen in the past?Well, you know I think we just heard a great example from Patti for those who work for a large employer, the employer can play a highly effective role in helping folks navigate this landscape so Patti explained some of the ways that Walmart is curating credit and non credit opportunities for its workforce, encouraging and financially supporting  participation from helping team members shape a pathway and educational pathway but also a career pathway. To be frank, Walmart is a leader in that area, there are a number of other large employers who are engaged in similar efforts, though. 

Now there is a risk of course that employer investment and employee education will go away as the employer’s economic incentives change. I will say, though, that one of the surprises of the code recession for me is that the large employers whad developed these programs prior to coated have not dropped that benefit and, indeed, some have started new ones and are significantly expanding their efforts so that is a good sign. Now, what about those without a job or those who work for an employer without the capacity to provide the kind of educational pathways that Walmart and others provide?

The most promising arrangement that I’ve observed is our regional collaborations among state and local governments, employers, workforce boards, higher education institutions provide and fund a similar set of path with is so just to name a few examples, the state of Indiana has developed a an effective set of programs over a period of years largely focused on manufacturing.

The DC area has an interesting consortium that has helped to define pathways into technology jobs that are in high demand in the region. And Sacramento has gotten some recent attention for using CARES act funds to pay unemployed workers to complete short programs, in IT, data science, and other fields. With willing regional employers involved from the outset, well, that one is relatively small scale It is noteworthy because of its earn while you learn model they’re paying folks to participate in these programs. So here’s some promising you know programs out there i’d say at this point there are far too few to help people keep up with changes in demands for skills, we need more we need them a greater scale and i’m really looking forward to the discussion to dig into the detail and talk about some of the way that that greater scale might be achieved. 

Paul Fain: Thanks Martin. I want to pass it back to Patti to respond to any of that or Andrew’s piece. I’ve got a couple specifics for you, but I’m guessing you may have some thoughts you’d like to share.

Patti Constantakis:Sure, but I’m happy to hear that you know. I’m not sure the best way to do that, given you have questions but I agree with everything. Mostly in response, Martin I agree with everything you say. There’s not much more like we need so many more types of programs, I completely agree on the worry around non-degree credentials, right? Where does that put us, and I think the one thing I would say, as I sit here representing an employer is there’s a role that employers need to play there as well, right? It’s ‘do we need that degree, and if we don’t ,can we do a much, much, much better job at signaling, people use the word signaling, what are the skills that we actually need for these jobs? 

You know many of us we’re going through a process right now at Walmart where we’re really kind of looking hard at that and it’s hard, iit’s not easy work to try to fit to to boil it down to what are the skills and so  I think it’s crucial that we all do it, so that we can that we can actually shift to a more equitable system here.

Andrew Hanson: You got a question, mind if I jump in Paul? There’s a question for either Martin or Patti. Martin the way you frame the non degree discussion is you know women going into Cosmetology versus men going into higher demand fields, usually in IT. STEM, so on and so forth. I wonder why that conversation tends to stop at non-degree, when we go into, you know at least data that i’ve looked at, when you go to the degree level that dynamic remains the same, you know women going into early childhood education, for example, versus men more likely to go into the MBAs and that sort of thing. 

There are a couple of exceptions are women or women going to health care pH tend to you know have higher wage field, but whether you look at it, the BA level or at a level of non-degree credentials, you see, that same the same sort of differences in terms of you know people differences in field as a whole pipeline of this happening, and then, once you get into the labor market you see that the same sort of phenomenon that are driving the differences so i’d love to hear if you’ve got any any thoughts on on that.

Martin Kurzweil:Well, I mean, not to mention the you know verity among women and men who have the same credential black and Latino people and white people who have the same credential and yeah I think you’re right Andrew andI guess what I would say at the the short term or non degree credential market as it exists now, isn’t a counter to the sort of broader hierarchy of an equity that not disrupting that is perpetuating in a lot of ways.

Paul, I don’t know if you had a question or I should say something.

Paul Fain: YeahI mean to note also that the job loss has been felt much worse by women and black and Latinos as well. Now alright, so we’ve gotten a bunch of questions from the audience about verification,the Tower of Babel  question, you know we’re talking with scale here at the highest level, an employer that can do a lot that can influence entire industries and economies. Could you talk a little bit Patti about how the academies and “Live Better U” can best ensure the credentials that those employees get have value elsewhere? I know “Live Better U” were talking about degrees, which have value of course outside of Walmart’s purview but what do you do to try to make sure that not only this the skills training leads to promotion opportunities within the company? 

If employees leave, you know that those skills can be translated and understood by other employers or even colleges looking for prior learning credit.

Patti Constantakis: Yeah it’s a great question, because we get often the question around whether or not you know we would be, sad is not quite the right word, whether we would not be happy with the fact if we were you know spending all this money on training, training folks and then they leave right away.

Our answer is actually that’s great, that’s fine. That again plays into our notion of what’s good for that worker is also good for society and also good for us right?So philosophically, we’re trying to approach things that way it’s more difficult in the actual operation losing all of that right, so the academies in particular, there is an attempt, really to do a couple of things. 

One is to sort of think about the skill sets that we’re training from a broader perspective than just our stores now obviously some piece of that has to be about here’s how we do it at Walmart, right? But there’s plenty in there that’s around management at a whole level or logistics specifically etc so there’s plenty that’s that’s that. Many of those actually have, we can get into the digital badge conversation if we want to, but that is we specifically try to design something that results in a digital badge that you can take with you from here so that’s kind of number one. 

What we in the LBU part of what we do is, we also are thinking through what are the right non-degrees, so we do have these skilled trade certificates that way and we work, you know we’re partnering with Penn Foster on some of this we’re partnering with, Southern New Hampshire University(SNHU) on some of the digital skills and the IT pieces. So we’re in search of partners that we can work with that would actually either help us with the, you know the stackable credentials or credentials that clearly align with the career pathways that one could engage in at Walmart but also go elsewhere right, so we’re trying to take that that that lens on everything we do.

Paul Fain:While I’m with you here, you know to you one of the prominent online program management companies just announced that Guild, your tuition benefit partner, will be doing short term credentials with them. So a lot of short term credentials coming from lots of different places as Credential Engine says there’s a million credentials out there.

What’s possible, you know? I know that’s maybe not a fair question, but could you get to the place where Walmart could have badges stacking up to a full on degree, at some point and yeah what’s your ambition, I guess, in that space?

Patti Constantakis:That’s a really good question because it depends on who you ask, in that, in that, in the space, right ? So I can’t frankly say from a business point of view we’re less concerned about the degree and more concerned about are we building the skills that people need for the future, in particular, as we do this digital transformation in our business in particular,right? We’re probably more concerned about that, how do we equip them with the skills and less concerned about like does it stack to a validated degree? We understand, though, that the world also has value in the world as well, and so, if we can provide that opportunity as well, we probably will right so I don’t know that we’re going ‘there’s not one ambition’, it’s kind of both what can we do well.

Paul Fain:There’s no easy answers here. So with partners like Southern New Hampshire University, that also has scale I would assume that employees who seek out credentials would be more likely to have their knowledge, skills and abilities recognized. They’re talking about their work experience at Walmart, recognized by some of these skill partners is that a fair assumption?

Patti Constantakis: Probably is, but we’re trying to work towards more than that right? We can go down, I can bring up topics around learning and employment records that we’re like ‘Guys have heard of that work?’ which is really about a record both of your learning and your work experience, you know, to simplify it. I suppose it’s a new fangled resume as it were, but we’re trying to engage in that as well, in terms of getting our training into a mode where somebody can actually take that and have it be recognized like recognized elsewhere as well, so it doesn’t get stuck with them at walmart and it means something outside of.

Paul Fain: Martin, I’d like to ask you to respond to some of that when you think about the challenge of getting these credentials recognized outside of employers or across institutional boundaries, what are some of the best practices you’re watching in terms of standardization validation where does it need to come from? Another easy question.

Martin Kurzweil: It’s been incredibly complex and challenging, you know? Implementation ,as Patti mentioned earlier, the articulation,clear articulation of the skills needed for particular positions. I would add to that the ways in which those skills are demonstrated or assessed so it’s both defining them but also explaining how they are measured and evaluated in an individual. I think that is the building block, right? That’s the building block for stacking in what is the sort of outcome and how do you assess it and how can that be compared to other outcomes that are assessed in other ways? Since most people engaged in education and training are doing so with the goal of advancing their career, I think that getting that you know signal, to use Patti’s word, from the employer at the outset is really important.

I think it also takes, well, if you think about it,  it’s sort of in a second a sequential sort of way to to stack from individual skills to up to and credentials up to something like a degree, which should be a broader and more durable signal of learning and you know engagement and adaptability.You need to understand what the what the person what skills and knowledge person has already so some kind of prior learning assessments know sort of what’s in that tank already. You need to know what the destination is, so what sort of degree or what sort of combination of skills are you trying to get to? And then you need to map a pathway between those two things, and there are some higher education programs that have gotten very good at that, in this degree completion contacts.

So Southern New Hampshire has already been mentioned, there’s also Thomas Edison State University, a public university. In New Jersey, there are others but that’s sort of the process that they go through, right? They like to find the bucket, that is, the outcome. They see what folks have done before, today, and then they map out the steps in between. So that’s that’s what that’s what I would say, I would point to a few examples and sort of comment on the overall process but it’s, it is the devil is in the details, as you know, I’m sure Patti knows all too well.

Andrew Hanson:Paull, if I can make a quick plug here. Our affiliate CAEL, the Council for Adults and Experiential Learning in partnership with  the Western interstate I can’t remember the rest of it, higher education but they released a report back in November that showed with respect to prior learning assessments that is so so valuable in such a big part of the solution here in terms of stackability in terms of you know giving people credit for what they’ve already learned. What they showed in the report was that it increases completion rates, saves time, money and also promotes persistence, from the perspective of the college, and so I encourage you all to to go check that out.

Paul Fain:Thanks Andrew. So let’s switch gears briefly here on skills based hiring. I’ll start with Martin here, obviously, a lot of noise here. Particularly, big companies and it talking about moving beyond the degree in hiring the federal government under the Trump Administration prioritized skills-based hiringo ver degrees. I think IBM says 15 to 20 percent of their new hires fit this kind of new-collar category.

How serious is this Martin,this time around? You’ve been tracking these issues for a while, is this going to stick around for a while, do you think,I hate to make anyone make a prediction, but I mean how seriously, should we take this move?

Martin Kurzweil: Yeah I think at that point, it’s still more of an aspiration and reality in most circumstances, but I do think there’s a serious movement in the direction of skills-based hiring. It’s you know it, it all comes down to implementation, and in a lot of cases, the way that skills based hiring and implemented is not very sophisticated. For most firms, I would say skills-based hiring is implemented as a resume keyword search. So it’s you know coming up with a set of words that you know that are meant to signal the kinds of skills that the hiring manager has identified, and looking for people who know who put those words in their resume.

It is still the case that degrees and you know certain high value industry credentials are requirements and the majority of job listings even where that kind of. You know, skills-based hiring is happening now, at the cutting edge, companies like IBM and others are using a variety of nuanced, usually situation-based performance assessments in their hiring process. As a way to directly status and identify skills, even if they’re not apparent from the experience or credentials of the candidate. 

Very few employers are doing that, at the top of the hiring funnel. It’s much more common in the middle of the hiring funnel so after there’s been some weeding out sometimes based on requirements like a degree requirement, but not always, but that part of the reason for that is concern about in labor and employment law and sort of using these assessments in lieu of the sort of more traditional means of sorting candidates. I’m not sure that the evidence really supports that but that’s the sort of risk assessment that a lot of firms are making about where and how to use these kinds of assessments.

I’’m really interested to know how Walmart does skills-based hiring.

Patti Constantakis:Well okay this looks I got um so again philosophically we are, we are in a place where we understand that skills for us get us to those career pathways, I think, is how we see it, and we actually funny enough, don’t like in all we did we have done a scrub through a lot of our job positions and if they don’t require a degree we don’t require a degree, like our store managers, but there’s no degree requirement for a store manager.

So we just start there and then there are a couple other places, but I would actually say that what we’ve seen what we our business seems to more clearly understand how skills can help us towards developing those career pathways that I was talking about. So what’s happening what we’re doing internally is where we’re looking at our job postings and our job requirements from an internal point of view and really what we are trying to do is break down the skills and we’re doing that because we want to create the career pathway,right? 

So, from trying to figure out a store, you know from a logistics point of view right as you climb out of the store into maybe into one of our distribution centers and work in logistics. What are those skill sets and how, what does that career pathway look like? The hope is if we do all of that work, then that also then translates as we start to bring people in. We have a little bit more about knowledge, like the assessment piece is still kind of an issue. You know to be candid about that because internally it’s easier to understand where they came from so into it and and have a pretty good sense of like if that’s a skill set, you would have if you have got to do that harder to do if you’re bringing somebody in from outside.

But we’re doing it across I mean we’re a huge company and a whole lot of a whole lot of roles, but, but there is there is a concerted effort to move towards skills-based everything so hiring,promotions, advancement, learning so all of it is there. But I will say it is it, there are moments when it feels completely overwhelming and that’s the kind of that’s the feedback that our HR team gives others that it’s like it is super overwhelming, but just take it a little at a time, because we believe we believe in the equity of it, ultimately, we really do.

Paul Fain: Great, thanks. To turn into an audience question here, building on Patti’s comment about the public good of investments and training and development. The question is, what are your thoughts Martin? We’ll  start with you about public investment in this space, again not an easy one, but briefly what would you like to see? What do you think could be coming down the pipe that could help from a public investment simpler?

Martin Kurzweil: Yeah, I mean it’s a hot topic. I think one thing I would think is necessary is a lot more federal support for states which are you as we, as we know, are suffering, right now, but just terribly.A lot of the programs to help connect unemployed people to trainings that help connect people to jobs are run at the stage or you know local regional level, but the funding comes through the state. This is not the time when we want states to roll back those programs as timely, we want them to expand them and improve them, and I also think that that.

Funding that federal support for states could be a mechanism for reinforcing some of the more effective practices in workforce development. So attaching conditions to some of that spending to you know, to promote the kinds of collaborative arrangements, I talked about a little bit earlier. Bringing in employers higher education workforce and so on another you know another important public investment which is really more in the infrastructure is to try to break down some of the silos that exist between workforce higher ed K to 12 used to be known education, which are funded separately, had you know different agencies or sub agencies involved.

Both the federal level and the state of all and that creates duplication, it creates an efficiency it doesn’t allow for thinking about the support for an individual learning and career development has continued sort of integrated whole and so changing the structure. If you know, policy space in a way that allows for more integration, I think, would be really important. Another area that I would flag for public investment is improving the quality of data on he huge number of different kinds of credentials that are out there and education and training programs that are out there, you know that’s the basis for a better understanding.

The landscape is the basis for quality assurance in the space which I think is really needed. There’s been a lot of debate about making shorter term certificate programs and other kinds of programs eligible for use of federal financial aid, and you know, I think. Having better data questions and quality assurance would be a necessary condition for doing that, but it could be a condition for doing that right that could be the way to start to build a better information set.

Paul Fain: As I feared, we were going to run through our time pretty quickly with this collection of topics, but I wanted to briefly in the lightning round fashion, your turn to Patti if you want to respond to public funding, please do, but I am going to combine a couple questions here. One saying is Walmart’s attention to skills-based hiring. Immediate new forms of corporate social responsibility to others could follow. Another question kind of reminded me of that saying how Walmart suppliers or its influence more broadly help other smaller companies get on this bandwagon writ large?I think some of the questions realized at Walmart’s under you know it has to do a lot of leadership here, but how can we get other companies involved basically? 

Patti Constantakis:Yeah what I would say, is, I think we somewhat recognize, we understand that our size has a certain kind of signal and so yes, part of I think what we want to do is lead and get and and and show here’s what we’re doing. We’re happy to talk in forums such as this one and in others to say we’re  tackling it and here’s how we’re doing it.

It is not as straightforward as we would all love it to be, but we’re on this journey will you join with us, so there have been we’ve been led through like some of the the efforts that the business roundtable is doing right. There’s a whole new initiative called Multiple Pathways Initiative and we’ve got over at companies who sit on the Business Roundtable who are engaged in what it takes to these skills, but as hiring specifically because we believe in the equity piece of all of that. 

 So it’s those kinds of efforts we’re also trying to through our philanthropy, we’re also very much trying to know how can we be a voice and how can we support the kinds of efforts there are going to continue to change this system. So we’re kind of trying to do both and are hoping to you know, encourage many others to join us so, yeah.

Paul Fain: Well that’s a good last slot for us here, thank you Patti. Thank you Martin. Patty, anyone who can get a chance to see what Walmart’s doing with the academies, like I had the good fortune to do, should really do it. It’s pretty amazing work. So we’ll be watching what you’re doing Martin, I hope we can keep in touch and all of your thoughts about this fast moving and complex space.Thank you to all of you for tuning in, we hope this has been valuable. 

We appreciate your feedback on how we can continue to be of service to the field through future Public Viewpoint webinars. A link is being added, or may already have been added, to the chat. It’ll take you to a survey to add your thoughts and will also email a link tomorrow with a follow up note with the recording of the webinar, that’s it. Thanks all, have a good one.

In the news from Strada

July 16, 2021
July 28, 2021 | Examining the Value of Nondegree Credentials

The number of organizations offering nondegree credentials is proliferating, and interest from learners in these credentials — certificates, certifications, and licenses — is growing. But even though these credentials are now in the spotlight, we have relatively sparse data on outcomes. To provide more understanding, through a Strada-Gallup survey we asked more than 14,000 adults across the nation about earnings, job satisfaction, and perceptions about the worth and benefits of nondegree credentials. This month’s Strada Public Viewpoint release compares learner outcomes across degree, nondegree, and combined pathways. By examining programs of different lengths and the experiences of different populations, we aim to provide insights that inform our understanding of the value and potential limitations of nondegree credentials. Join Strada researchers and expert panelists at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 28, for a discussion about the findings and implications for the field. As part of the ongoing Strada Public Viewpoint research started in March 2020, Strada Education Network has talked to tens of thousands of people in the United States about their experiences with work and education during the pandemic. The research is intended to inform education and training providers, policymakers, and employers who are helping people complete valuable and purposeful education pathways.