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Texas will study how to support college degree alternatives

Lieutenant governor asks for report on ‘work-based learning and microcredential opportunities’

The Lone Star State wants to know how it can help workers in gaining skills without getting a college degree.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s latest “Interim Legislative Charges” document asks the state senate’s Higher Education Committee to study “workforce education” developments.

Patrick (pictured) wants a report on “state efforts to support access to work-based learning and microcredential opportunities” such as “apprenticeships, industry based certificates and certifications.”

The committee should examine “competency-based education” and evaluate “the potential benefits of expanding access to work-based learning, apprenticeships, microcredentials” as well as “industry-based certifications.”

The certifications should be “aligned to workforce needs and provide in-demand workforce skills and competencies.”

The College Fix emailed the lieutenant governor’s office twice in the past two weeks to ask about his reason for the report request and a timeline for the evaluation, but his office did not respond with a comment.

MORE: Former education official argues for ‘skills-based hiring’

Several organizations told The Fix they want to see better efforts to support alternatives to college.

“[T]he way we help all students is by aligning the incentives of institutions to create great opportunities for them, whether a student is immediately bound for a four-year degree or whether he or she wants a certificate,” Texas Public Policy Foundation Policy Director Erin Valdez told The Fix via email.

Valdez emphasized the value of community colleges and how they can increase their importance “by offering programs of study that align with the workforce needs of the state in the skilled trades and information technology.”

Valdez said there is a need to work with employers to create pathways for hiring.

“We need to find ways to engage employers as true partners for secondary and postsecondary pathways,” she said. “Better aligning incentives can look like ensuring funding is tied to successful employment outcomes for students, among other ideas.”

The right-leaning R Street Institute is not involved with this report but said the state should look into occupational licensing reform.

“​​So, while trade schools are incredibly valuable, so are other methods of learning skills,” Shoshana Weissmann told The Fix via email.

“The only time that the government should stand between a person and a job is if there is real evidence that people can be harmed if the government does not serve as that barrier,” Weissmann said.

“And even in those cases, sometimes lower barriers such as health inspections or mandatory registration might serve better than licensing,” she said.

“I was encouraged to see the workforce education section mention apprenticeships, private certifications, and other credentials beyond licensing,” she said.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress did not respond to several requests for comment on the lieutenant governor’s request and solutions to increase employment for individuals who do not have a college degree.

MORE: Gas company creates program to help students explore trades

IMAGE: Fox 4 Dallas/YouTube

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About the Author
Christian Lubke -- Carthage College