Accelerating Recovery through Credentials (ARC)

As the U.S. begins to work toward economic recovery, millions of displaced adult workers will return to postsecondary education for reskilling. Institutions must be prepared to immediately support adults most impacted by the crisis, particularly low-wage earners and individuals of color.

Source: Strada Education Network, 2020

Attainment of postsecondary credentials is becoming increasingly important for full participation in our economy, and states will not have the talent needed for a robust workforce without purposeful strategies to help adult learners succeed. Engaging in systemic improvement to develop adult-friendly approaches will be a critical step toward an equitable recovery. These renewed systems and structures provide supports to adults managing career transitions, transform learning to emphasize relevance, emphasize affordability, and accelerate learning for reduced time to completion.

With the generous support of Ascendium Education Group and The Kresge Foundation, Education Strategy Group is developing Accelerating Recovery through Credentials (ARC), a scalable policy and practice framework with accompanying guides—the Rapid Response Tool and the ARC Playbook—that will help higher education institutions become career transition hubs with systems and structures that are responsive to the needs of adults. This work will enable institutions to effectively promote acquisition of postsecondary credentials of value to ensure opportunities for wage gains and economic mobility. Through a Rapid Response Tool, ARC will equip decisionmakers to quickly assist workers and learners with moving into careers in the new economy. The ARC Playbook will help leaders take a holistic approach that synthesizes existing exemplary state and institutional policies and practices to refocus education and training systems to meet the unprecedented demand. The core features of ARC are:

  • Development of adult-friendly systems and structures that are attentive to equity;
  • Guidance for postsecondary transitions with a focus on non-degree credentials as on-ramps to careers;
  • Accelerated learning models to enable faster reconnection to the labor market;
  • Employer-validated, labor market relevant credentials that lead to family-sustaining wages; and
  • Systemic responses that can be implemented at scale.

As institutions across the country reopen their doors (virtually or in-person) for the fall 2020 term, millions more students in need of credentials will rely on them to quickly pivot and become post-pandemic institutions that are able to effectively serve their needs. We have an unprecedented window of opportunity to drive the strategic direction for serving adult learners for decades to come. Accelerating Recovery through Credentials will serve as a resource for action, supporting state higher education systems and institutional leaders with resources and tools enabling adult learners to effectively thrive within a post-pandemic economy.