As a general rule, the more data available, the better. That rule certainly applies to Missouri’s workforce. In particular, more data about Industry-Recognized Credentials (IRCs) could help inform how best to improve Missouri’s workforce. IRCs are credentials that validate a student’s specific job skills. Some jobs even require an IRC; passing the Certified Nursing Aide Exam is required to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.
I’ve written previously about IRC attainment in Missouri, using data from 2017 and 2018 that the Show-Me Institute obtained through a data request. These data were useful because IRC attainment was broken out by district and school, allowing for a detailed analysis of where in the state specific IRCs are earned and how that could support local economies.
However, documents from the Career and Technical Education (CTE) advisory council meeting in October 2019 contained IRC attainment data from 2013–2019. These data can provide further context, such as what IRCs students have earned over the years and which IRCs are growing in popularity, as well as overall attainment trends. The data show that IRC attainment spiked from 2013 to 2016, and has since slowly increased.
But this trend doesn’t hold true for all IRCs, including some IRCs for jobs that are in demand in Missouri, such as the CompTIA credential for technology jobs. The chart below shows that some IRCs have actually experienced a decline in attainment in recent years. This should be cause for concern since Missouri needs more students graduating with in-demand credentials, not fewer. To help encourage more high schoolers to earn an IRC, Missouri should consider implementing an IRC bonus pay program. An IRC bonus pay program would give a small bonus to a teacher for each student of theirs who passes an IRC exam.
These data can call to attention the gap between the economy’s need for IRCs and the low attainment of IRCs for Missouri high school students. Missouri should be trying to strengthen its workforce, and IRCs can be an effective way to do that.