Noncredit Career Technical Education, Industry Credentials, and Labor Market Outcomes

By: Di Xu, Kelli Bird, Michael Cooper, Benjamin Castleman


Industry-recognized certificates are one of the most common credential types associated with public workforce training programs, but little research has been conducted on the economic benefits of these credentials in the labor market. This paper provides one of the the first quasi-experimental evidence on the labor market returns to industry-recognized credentials connected to community college workforce noncredit training programs. Based on a novel data that includes approximately 24,000 working-age adults enrolled in noncredit workforce training programs at the Virginia Community College System, we estimate an individual-level fixed effects model to estimate earnings premia net of fixed attributes and earnings time-trends. Our results indicate that earning an industry-recognized credential on average increases quarterly earnings by approximately $1,000 and the probability of being employed by 2.4 percentage points, although there is substantial heterogeneity in economic return across different fields of study. We also find that the noncredit workforce training programs enroll a different segment of the population than credit-bearing programs at community colleges, thus providing an important alternative pathway to workforce opportunities for populations traditionally underrepresented in the credit-bearing sector.