Making a Difference with Certification

A certificate program works with your school’s CTE curriculum, giving students a competitive edge and providing employers with concrete evidence they can do the job. Here’s how to get started.

Develop a Plan

Create a committee that includes administrators, academic and CTE staff, local business leaders, and area colleges that offer career training. Determine what kind of industry certifications align with your existing curriculum and standards and fill local needs. Plant the seeds for partnerships with state and local businesses so that by the time the first students receive their certificates, there will be a job or internship waiting for them—or an opportunity to continue advancing their skills at a local college.

But don’t limit yourself to what’s in your own backyard. Consider certificates in other promising fields that will allow students to broaden their horizons beyond the local market. A certificate provider can help you learn more about industry trends and the kinds of skills employers are looking for.

Examine Funding Options

When certificate program graduates find jobs, they contribute to state tax revenues, helping many CTE programs to fund themselves. In Wisconsin, taxpayers receive $12.20 in benefits for every dollar invested in the technical college system. Oklahoma’s economy reaps a net benefit of $3.5 billion annually from graduates of the state’s CareerTech System. In Washington state, taxpayers see a return of $9 for every $1 they invest in CTE training. Colorado’s community college system adds $5.8 billion a year to the state’s economy.

As they realize the benefits, states are funding more certificate programs. Some state CTE directors and administrators are also adapting their programs to strengthen core literacy and math skills in alignment with Common Core technical standards. With the adoption of Common Core technical standards, schools are shifting toward helping students prepare for careers. They are also setting up more dual-enrollment courses, in which students acquire industry credentials as well as work toward a post-secondary degree.

Schools in all states can get funding for certificate programs through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act, which provides states with money to distribute to high schools, colleges, and universities that offer programs integrating academic and career and technical education. Perkins grants are the most common funding source for CTE programs. The money is released to states every October.

Other federal grants are available through the U.S. Departments of Labor, the U.S. Department of Education, and other departments, especially for STEM studies. You can also try these government funding search engines:

In addition, some public school districts have foundations to supplement their educational funding. Post-secondary institutions can apply for a variety of private foundation grants, including from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Knight Foundation.

Teachers who want materials for CTE classes sometimes use Donors Choose, a sort of GoFundMe site for education projects.

Choose a Certification Partner

It’s important to select a certification organization that employers respect. Choose one with a strong reputation and an outstanding track record in student placement and employer satisfaction. Make sure the program offers staff training when necessary. Certificate programs aren’t about teaching to a test, but about helping students solve problems with real-world applications. In today’s world, that means having thorough knowledge of the software businesses use so that students can hit the ground running. Considering that 83 percent of enterprises use Microsoft Office and the Windows operating system, students would be well served to arrive at their doorstep with a strong grasp of Microsoft technology. Those who go to work for smaller businesses could benefit from industry certification in QuickBooks Online, which has over 2.5 million subscribers.

In today’s environment, schools can’t rely on an academic education alone to prepare students for successful careers or post-secondary education. Having certification programs can make a school shine, improving students’ lifetime employment prospects, as well as raising graduation rates and lifting morale.

At Certiport, we can collaborate with you to create a top-notch and measurable program that works for your school, your students, and your budget. Interested in learning more? Connect with us here.