- About 6 in 10 students, job seekers and employees aiming to change careers think they don't have the right academic degrees for jobs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, according to a new survey commissioned by IBM.
- The survey, conducted in 13 countries and released Tuesday, also found that 6 in 10 respondents worry digital credentials will be too expensive to earn. And roughly 4 in 10 said the greatest barrier to gaining more skills is not knowing where to start.
- The study also shows reason for optimism among evangelists for credentials: 86% of respondents who earned a digital credential said it helped them meet their career goals, and 75% said digital credentials are a good way to supplement more traditional forms of education.
The new study offers a window into misconceptions, confusion and concern about digital credentials. Employers and colleges alike have touted these offerings as having the potential to bridge the gap between education and the workplace at a time when technological advances drive demand for fast-changing skills.
If they're effective, credentials could help employees learn the skills needed for STEM fields and provide employers with a strong signal of what abilities they're likely to bring to the table. The flexibility of digital credential programs could also help universities attract adult and nontraditional students while creating additional value for learners of all ages.
Various forms and goals of credentials have won backing from the likes of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, managers working in human resources and for-profit online education providers like Coursera. But the alternative credential space can seem overwhelming — one recent count found almost 1.1 million certificates, badges, licenses and diplomas on offer in the U.S. from a wide variety of providers.
For U.S. colleges, that means competing in an education and training space that's increasingly complex and crowded.
The new study commissioned by IBM encompassed interviews with over 14,000 students, job seekers and people changing careers in 13 different countries, including the U.S. Morning Consult administered the study, which was in the field from Nov. 2 to Dec. 20.
"There are many misconceptions about what's needed to pursue a rewarding and lucrative career in today’s rapidly advancing workplace," Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM's chief impact officer, said in a statement. "This is why we must raise awareness of the breadth of science and technology roles that exist across industries."
The study shows some space to raise awareness about the credentials that could feed employees into those roles. Just 47% of those it categorized as students, job seekers or career changers said they were familiar with digital credential programs.
Still, over 80% of all respondents said they plan to build their skills in the next two years. Some 90% expressed confidence they could develop skills or learn from an online program. Yet only 25% planned to complete online coursework in the next two years.
Respondents cited a desire to improve their career opportunities and have better qualifications as top reasons for wanting digital credentials.
IBM is promoting technology training internationally with a free program for adult learners, college students and faculty, and high school students that it calls SkillsBuild. It's working with partners around the world to that end, announcing new or expanded partnerships with 45 organizations.
U.S.-based partners include University of the Cumberlands, the Wond'ry at Vanderbilt University and Digital Promise, a nonprofit working around the world that's focused on learners who historically have been excluded from the system.