Creating Stackable Credential Programs

There are many unknowns when it comes to the future of work. Automation, technological advances, and shifting demands in our economy mean there are jobs that are being displaced and jobs that don’t even exist yet. One further challenge feeding into this changing and uncertain future is a workforce that may lack skillsets aligned to the demands of a new landscape. Without paying special attention to equity of access and existing barriers, policymakers and education institutions run the risk of creating a workforce that is unable to meet the demands of the day. That’s where stackable credential programs can help.

Today, too many students face barriers that make it difficult to complete and attain a credential that is relevant to a career path that will have opportunities for advancement and yield a positive return on investment. These barriers include: 

  • The high costs of training programs and postsecondary education 
  • Misalignment between coursework and curriculum that may not meet industry needs and long-term opportunities 
  • Significant time burdens in attaining different credentials and degrees 

It is in addressing this complex nexus of issues the stackable credentials program — championed by Mi Casa Resource Center, the Community College of Aurora, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and members of the financial services industry — emerged as a powerful tool to ensure students have the opportunity to gain the skills and credentials needed to meet the demands of growing industries. In Colorado, these organizations, led by the financial services industry’s need for a better talent pipeline, convened to develop a program wherein the skills gained from one partner organization translated directly into prerequisites for another. 

Recognizing the demand for skilled workers in the banking and financial industries talent pipeline, Mi Casa Resource Center, the Community College of Aurora, and the Metropolitan State University of Denver partnered to create a unique stackable credentials pathway program for the banking and financial services industry. 

This publication captures their design process and learnings essential to implementing a sustainable stackable credential pathway for any industry or geographic region. The banking and financial services industry pathway is an example of a model that could be applied to multiple issue areas such as early childhood education and health care. The lessons from this pathway offers guidance to those thinking about replication.

Thank you to Mi Casa Resource Center and Lumina Foundation for funding this work. The Bell Policy Center would also like to express thanks to the banking and financial services stackable credentials pathway design team, including staff and leadership from Mi Casa Resource Center, Community College of Aurora, and Metropolitan State University of Denver. The design team met with the Bell’s policy and research team to share insights on its process and learning that took place during the development of the program. The Bell is thankful for additional feedback on the design process from Skillful, Denver Education Attainment Network, and Colorado Department of Higher Education

Click here to read the executive summary of this report or see below for the report in its entirety.