Employer Perspectives on Competency-based Education

AEICompetency-based education (CBE) programs are growing in popularity as an alternative path to a postsecondary degree. Freed from the seat-time constraints of traditional higher education programs, CBE students can progress at their own pace and complete their postsecondary education having gained relevant and demonstrable skills. The CBE model has proven particularly attractive for nontraditional students juggling work and family commitments that make conventional higher education class schedules unrealistic. But the long-term viability of CBE programs hinges on the credibility of these programs’ credentials in the eyes of employers. That credibility, in turn, depends on the quality of the assessments CBE programs use to decide who earns a credential.

A new report by Katie Larsen McClarty and Matthew N. Gaertner of AEI addresses these concerns. Following are the key points from the report:


— Employers’ overall awareness of competency-based education (CBE) is low, but the small minority of hiring managers already aware of CBE have a favorable view of the model.

— CBE programs generally employ student-centric marketing efforts, as opposed to employer-centric marketing messages, which may help explain the low levels of employer awareness.

— Employers rooted in traditional hiring approaches express significant misgivings that targeted skill-building approaches (as in CBE) may come at the expense of more general skills. Still, two-thirds of employers think that they could be doing better at identifying students with the skill set required for each job.

— Institutions offering CBE programs should partner closely with employers to help students attain the general and specific skills they need to succeed in the labor market in a cost effective way.

To read the report: