Navigating the Future of Education and Employment: Bridging Degrees, Certifications, and Skills

Figuring out how we might help  institutions meet the demand for faster, more flexible, and “quicker-to-ROI” learning programs falls into the category of “things that keep me up at night”.

We know that learners are no longer choosing a four-year degree program by default. Traditional educational institutions now face increasing competition from professional certification and career focused offerings—with only 43% of high school graduates pursuing traditional four-year degrees (NCES, 2023). These learners are joining the majority of adult learners who look to programs that are directly employment related.

In this post, we will explore a few challenges that we feel you should be actively discussing at your institution.

Bridging the “Degree to Skill to Employment” Gap

Learners are increasingly focused on the return on investment (ROI) of their degree, and often need help distilling their degree into skills and capabilities that have impact in the job market. Learners need help answering the question:

I have my degree, but how do I clearly illustrate to future employers what I can do with that degree?


To align with these requirements, institutions should consider implementing programs that align more directly with current industry trends, or at least make it easier for the learner to demonstrate the skills gained via their education. Institutions could:

  • Align degree programs to industry standard skill matrices
  • Embed industry-related skills/competencies into relevant curricula
  • Add industry certifications as part of the normal assessment process

These programs might supplement current degree programs, or create direct paths to employment with a clear set of future credentials that can build upon gained experience to help learners pursue a clear career path.

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As the educational landscape diversifies with degrees, certifications, and skill-based learning options, institutions, learners, and employers face challenges in evaluating the relative value of various educational options. The essential question here is:

Outside of reputation, how do learners and employers evaluate various certifications? How do institutions take advantage of the coming confusion?


With the growing push toward skills-based hiring, learners and employers are going to carefully evaluate the quality of various certification programs. This is a chance for institutions with less reputational power to disrupt the market and deliver programs that can measurably improve learner outcomes and career advancement. Some things we believe you should be thinking about include:

  • The huge difference in various credentials and likely confusion of their relative value
  • How do institutions prove the value of their educational outcomes?
  • Do we see a “Yelp for Education”?

The need for well-defined skills that can be practically applied and the proof of those skills will become an increasingly important part of curriculum design discussions.

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Cultivating Life-long Learning Relationships

In today's dynamic job market, continuous learning is imperative for career progression. Institutions can focus on supporting their graduates with more meaningful education and professional development opportunities.

Continuing education and skill acquisition is now a requirement for continued career progression—but how do we develop and maintain those relationships?


Education providers could enhance alumni experience with personalized career-focused learning paths, and by offering enhanced networking and cohort support opportunities. The technology and system to deliver on this vision are in the market now, although developing these kinds of programs poses some interesting challenges, such as:

  • Establishing and maintaining the alumni relationship
  • Demonstrating the value of this connection to employers
  • Linking this relationship to recruitment and retention

This ongoing relationship allows institutions to capture future education revenue, while alumni gain curated access to learning opportunities that can improve their earnings and career enjoyment potential.

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At Open LMS, we’ve helped institutions all over the world host, measure, and improve their learning programs. Our learning management system, Open LMS EDU, is specifically tailored to help learning institutions just like yours. To find out more, request a demo.
Brad Koch
About the author

Brad Koch

VP of Industry Management and Partnerships

Brad boasts over 30 years in educational support. Starting as an Associate Publisher at Pearson, he crafted books and software in support of technical certifications. His journey continued into online learning with product leadership roles at ANGEL Learning, Blackboard, and Instructure Canvas. Currently spearheading Industry Management and Partner initiatives at Open LMS, Brad is a seasoned observer of online learning's swift evolution. Grateful for his front-row involvement, he collaborates with institutions dedicated to refining the online teaching and learning experience.

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