The impact of short term credentials: an analysis of a technical college customer service certificate program
Stewart, Dean H.
University of Wisconsin-Stout
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This study sought to examine the lived experiences of participants of a grant funded, short term customer service certificate program for case managed unemployed adults, offered by a Midwestern technical college across two academic years; 2014 - 2015. This qualitative, phenomenological study employed personal interviews with selected program completers to gain a deeper understanding of their employment and educational attainment perceptions, in an effort to inform and guide the future development of short duration credentials. The study revealed that short term credentials can serve as a catalyst for enhanced employment and further educational opportunities, given the presence of several factors; the encouragement and support of others including employers, instructors and peers, the inclusion of a work based learning model that mirrors the conditions and behaviors required in the work environment, and the alignment of the training to in-demand occupations. The "Cliff Effect" was found to be an unintended outcome for some completers. Recommendations for future program design support the inclusion of employers in program design and delivery, the use of an Adult Learning Cohort Model, the creation of a speed to market occupational pathways, the addition of financial coaching to student support, and reinforcement of the concept of life-long learning.