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Alternative Pathways to the Workforce: Workcred Awarded ECMC Foundation Grant to Support First-Generation, Low-Income, and Adult Learners


Workcred has received a three-year grant from the ECMC Foundation, as part of a partnership with the League for Innovation in the Community College (the League) and the National Student Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse), to offer community colleges an affordable, scalable approach to align degrees with industry needs. The partnership—and its focus on Certification+Degree (C+D) Pathways—will support the development of alternative pathways within the workforce through embedding industry-recognized certifications into community college coursework.

Workcred and its partners will support five community colleges to develop and implement C+D Pathways in IT, logistics, and/or health science programs in at least three different states, and establish a process for economical replication. In addition, the project team will develop a data-informed approach to guide C+D Pathway implementation and improvement. Ultimately, the collaboration will provide learners with opportunities to master occupationally-relevant skills that lead to living wage jobs while they are on a pathway to an associate degree.

To accomplish the project objectives, Workcred, the League, and the Clearinghouse will also partner with a higher education accreditation body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), to consider how C+D Pathways completion and attainment will be determined within the context of the accreditation process.

The project also supports ECMC Foundation’s Career Readiness aim to develop scalable approaches to increase learner retention and degree completion across a diverse learner population. ECMC foundation is a national foundation working to improve postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

“We are thrilled to start this important and much-needed work thanks to this grant and collaboration, which supports our long-term goals in examining workforce issues impacting communities that experience inequities,” said Workcred executive director Roy Swift. “Workcred anticipates that the activities and tools developed through this project will lead to multiple sustainable C+D Pathways, inform new and existing C+D Pathways, and promote scaling of these pathways nationally.”

Rufus Glasper, president and CEO of the League, said, “We are committed to strengthening the credentials and the pathways which our students and communities seek to live a better life. This project identifies and expands on solutions for students and their families that are sustainable, scalable, and transformative.”

“This framework will build upon previous work by Workcred and the National Student Clearinghouse to link higher education institution enrollment data, industry credential data, and wage data,” said Rick Torres, president and CEO, National Student Clearinghouse. “The results of this grant will show how institutions can observe their learners from enrollment all the way into their careers, and better understand the value of industry credentials and degrees in that journey. This is an important step in helping institutions tell the most holistic story possible of their outcomes of their work.” 

Barbara Gellman-Danley, HLC president, reinforced the value of this work. “HLC is very excited to be part of this initiative. The credential marketplace is growing exponentially, and clear pathways to the associate degree – and quality assurance of those pathways – are critical to both the students and the workforce.”

More on C+D Pathways

Did You Know?

C+D Pathways, which involve embedding industry credentials into degree programs, is a common practice at community colleges, as these pathways are aligned with both student goals and industry needs. Furthermore, they better position students in their field and help to build a pipeline of prepared workers for employers.

To that end, as C+D Pathways continue to be developed, Workcred strives to place more emphasis on effective pathway development and implementation, as well as the use of metrics to guide continuous improvement and ensure the pathways are increasing learner retention and degree completion, and leading to living wage employment.

Learn more about how C+D Pathways have the potential to benefit all learners as a broadly applicable, scalable approach to aligning degrees in any academic discipline with industry-relevant competencies, as explained in Workcred’s editorial, Increasing Value Through Certification and Degree Pathways, published in The evolllution.

See also Certification-Degree Pathways: Aligning Undergraduate Curriculum to Industry Credentials and Professions.

About Workcred
Formed in 2014 as an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute, Workcred’s mission is to strengthen workforce quality by improving the credentialing system, ensuring its ongoing relevance, and preparing employers, workers, educators, and governments to use it effectively. Learn more about it on the Workcred site. To better understand and navigate the credentialing system, visit Workcred's Publications and Events page and view the video, An Introduction to Workcred.

About ANSI

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the U.S. quality of life by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity. Its membership is comprised of businesses, professional societies and trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, and consumer and labor organizations.

The Institute represents and serves the diverse interests of more than 270,000 companies and organizations and 30 million professionals worldwide. ANSI is the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). For more information, visit


About the League for Innovation in the Community College

The League for Innovation in the Community College is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate innovation in the community college environment. The League hosts conferences and institutes, develops print and digital resources, and leads projects and initiatives with almost 400 member colleges, strategic partners, and a host of other government and nonprofit agencies in a continuing effort to advance the community college field and make a positive difference for students and communities. Information about the League and its activities is available at

About the National Student Clearinghouse

The National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit formed in 1993, is the trusted source for and leading provider of higher education verifications and electronic education record exchanges. Besides working with nearly 3,600 postsecondary institutions, the Clearinghouse also provides thousands of high schools and districts with continuing collegiate enrollment, progression, and completion statistics on their alumni. For more details, visit

About the Higher Learning Commission

The Higher Learning Commission accredits approximately 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States. HLC is a private, nonprofit accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Contact [email protected] for more information.  


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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