As a surge in construction employment provides more opportunities for job seekers, employers in the sector report that finding qualified workers with the right skill sets is an increasing challenge. Quality workforce credentials and education and training assessments can help employers identify skilled candidates, and can provide those candidates a competitive edge—if the credentials are meaningful and relevant. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) affiliate Workcred is working to increase the quality and effectiveness of the credentialing system by working to ensure that certificate programs and certifications are valid within the industry across time to ensure the ongoing credibility of the credential.
Recent U.S. labor reports indicate that construction employment is on the rise, with 308,000 jobs added over the past year—representing the highest employment in construction since 2009. While the uptick in numbers has revealed wage gains in some areas of the country, it has also unveiled a growing challenge for firms looking to hire: limited talent supply. A 2014 survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America and SmartBrief indicated that a majority (83 percent) of U.S. construction firms are having difficulty finding "qualified workers" to meet the growing demand for construction services.
Certifications are one solution to address the needs of the industry and prepare novice and re-tool seasoned workers with the necessary skills for available jobs. The value of such certifications is recognized across the industry, as research and surveys suggest.
Hiring Managers Say Certifications Count
One market research study by McGraw-Hill titled Construction Industry Workforce Shortages: Role of Certification, Training and Green Jobs in Filling the Gaps reflects the challenges of the construction labor skills gap, and reveals the perceived value of certifications as a leveraging tool in the sector's job market. The industry wide study captured responses of architecture and engineering firms, general contractors, and specialty trade contractors.
Over 50 percent of all respondents agreed that certification "has a strong, positive overall impact on individuals' careers and compensation." And more than half (66 percent) of those who are involved in hiring decisions reported that certification is a factor in greater compensation. The findings indicate that certifications are considered as an important incentive in the construction trade field. However, selecting a quality credential with market value can be a challenging process. A lot more research is needed on the effectiveness of certifications. Too often what is called a "certification" would not meet any national standard.
WorkCred Supports Efforts to Improve Certification Quality, Transparency, and Portability
Over 4,000 personnel certification bodies are at work in the United States, but less than 10 percent are accredited or reviewed by a third-party accreditation body. This poses a challenge across industries, as there is little consensus on the definition of quality or market value of a credentials.
Workcred, a new ANSI affiliate organization formed in 2014, is committed to strengthening workforce quality by improving the credentialing system, ensuring its ongoing relevance, and preparing employers, workers, educators, and governments to use it effectively. Led by executive director Roy Swift, Ph.D., the organization's vision is a labor market which relies on the relevance, quality, and value of workforce credentials for opportunities, growth, and development. Dr. Swift, a retired U.S. Army colonel, previously served as ANSI's chief workforce development officer and senior director of personnel credentialing accreditation programs.
"Workcred will help job seekers differentiate a quality credential from a waste of time and money, and help industry determine which credentials have market value," said Dr. Swift. "It will help educators to identify industry needs and align with the related credentialing organizations."
Through research, consulting, fora, and education, Workcred will help connect credentials, competencies, careers, and customers. For more information, visit www.workcred.org.