Editor’s Note: Back in September 2018, awaiting the election of our next governor, we at the Fordham Institute began developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is one of those policy proposals.


With Mike DeWine sworn in as Ohio’s 70th governor, and with his administration now well underway, we are proud to roll out the full set of our education policy proposals. You can download the full document, titled Fulfilling the Readiness Promise: Twenty-five education policy ideas for Ohio, at this link, or you can access the individual policy proposals from the links provided here.

Proposal: Create an incentive fund to encourage traditional districts, regional joint-vocational centers, charter and STEM schools, or community and technical colleges (via dual enrollment) to help high school students earn credentials in high-demand careers. The fund should provide additional dollars to schools or colleges based on the number of students who accumulate credentials for in-demand fields before graduating.


Background: The State Board of Education currently approves dozens of industry-recognized credentials across thirteen career fields, such as agriculture, health care, hospitality and tourism, and manufacturing. Students can earn credentials through their local schools, at regional joint-vocational centers, through an apprenticeship, or through dual high school/college enrollment. Each credential is assigned a certain number of points—up to twelve for the most demanding certification programs and one for the least intensive. Third-party organizations, such as professional associations or industry groups, issue these credentials when students meet certain requirements. For example, students can earn an HVAC credential issued by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America; a medical-assistant credential issued by the American Medical Certification Association; or an IT routing and switching credential issued by Cisco. According to the most recent state data, few students earn such credentials: although these data predate the new state graduation requirements, less than 5 percent of Ohio’s graduating classes of 2015 and 2016 left high school with industry credentials (that is, earned credentials worth a total of at least twelve points). With 40 percent of young people not entering college directly after high school, many graduates are left to pursue employment without credentials that could open job opportunities and help them advance in their careers. Earning certifications in high school can also benefit college-going students, who can use them when they begin to pursue full-time employment.


Proposal rationale: Industry-recognized credentials are a win-win for students and employers. Students benefit by gaining technical skills and earning credentials that signify their employability; businesses also benefit from better-trained employees, particularly at entry-level positions. Yet Ohio has too many young people leaving high school (and college, too) who enter the job market without technical skills or recognized credentials. By providing financial incentives, as Colorado and Wisconsin have done, state leaders would encourage more students to gain certifications in Ohio’s most in-demand careers.


Cost: This could be accomplished by providing $8 million per year for this incentive program. Schools would receive $1,000 for each student who completes an in-demand industry credential. Incentive dollars would be awarded until they were gone.


Resources: For information about industry-recognized credentials, see ODE’s “Industry-Recognized Credentials,” and for a list of careers that Ohio considers in demand, see Ohio Means Jobs’ “In-Demand Careers.” For examples of states with incentive programs linked to industry certifications, see the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s “CTE Technical Incentive Grants” and the Colorado Department of Education’s “Career Success Pilot Program.”

Policy Priority:
Ohio Education Gadfly