20171106_GCC @ Cedar Mtn AshphaltR

Joseph 'Allen' Miller participates in Germanna Community College's asphalt technician apprenticeship program. He works at Cedar Mountain Stone in Culpeper County.

A shift is taking place in the way businesses are approaching employment choices. Today, proven skills are the cornerstone of hiring.

Employers are still interested in what you know. However, they are more interested in what you can do.

Proof of a skill is sometimes referred to as certification and other times as a credential. In relatively recent times, employers have benchmarked employment standards by college degrees.

College degrees are often still important when it comes to moving up the ladder in a company. But they are not the be-all and end-all they once were.

Our world has shifted from information scarcity, which supported the traditional model of gaining knowledge over four years to obtain a degree and then deploying it over a career. Now, we live in an information-saturated world, requiring constant learning, and the need to maintain updated skills in order to be competitive in the global economy.

Business is recognizing that skills, certifications, and credentials are the new benchmarks. Most resumes and job applications today are not even looked at unless they have the minimum credentials described as key words. In many cases, automated resume and application screening will deliver only those candidates that have these certifications for consideration.

Businesses have begun to adapt to a lifelong learning culture by returning to the concept of apprenticeships. Traditionally, apprenticeships have been perceived as related to trade and craft professions. However, the concept is now crossing over to IT Fields, Professional Services, as well as the Trades Professions. This means you can learn while you earn--and learn more and earn more. Employers now have more tools to understand ROI for the additional knowledge and pay the worker accordingly.

Job seekers are now able to access training through many channels and methods. There are still benefits to a brick and mortar learning environments, personal relationships and networking, as well as to academic knowledge. Online courses are proliferating and require cautious research to determine their ultimate value. Though you may have a credential from online channels, business will also prefer a known institution as the credential source.

Virginia residents are fortunate that grants are currently available for many apprenticeship programs that result in lifetime credentials. If you qualify, you may be able to take advantage of two thirds of the tuition being paid for by the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Community College System.

We are in a rare moment in which education is very accessible, tuition help is possible, and good job options are available. These are good times. Traditionally, there are economic cycles that challenge us. I encourage local job-seekers to recognize this and take advantage of up-skilling sooner rather than later.

Credentials are a lot like currency. They hold value and open opportunities. Contact Germanna Community College’s (or your closest Virginia Community College System school’s) Center for Workforce today and get started.

Jim Charapich is the Business Pathways Specialist at Germanna Community College’s Center for Advanced Technology. He is a former president of the Culpeper County Chamber of Commerce.

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