homepage | KC Imagine Panel Discusses Merits of Certification For Digital Media Careers
January 20, 2023
January 20, 2023
Kansas City has 50,000 people working in digital media professions and that number has grown 24 percent in the last decade. In the past, digital media firms expected college degrees and strong portfolios as formal qualifications from job candidates. Those expectations have changed in recent years with the emergence of alternative credentials.
Four panelists addressed this point during a discussion on Certifications for Digital Media, one of many panels at the recent 2023 KC IMAGINE Conference: Creating the Future of Digital Media in KC. Ron Green, executive director of digiSTORY KC and KC IMAGINE, moderated the panel.
Jake Akehurst, executive director of UMKC TalentLink, and three other panelists participated in the discussion. Akehurst leads strategic efforts to identify skills-based workforce training needs for the community, develop training initiatives with businesses, and deliver programs that address those needs. UMKC TalentLink offers a wide range of courses and programs that can lead to earning a certificate or preparing for a certification.
In addition to college degrees, Akehurst noted that alternative credentials have gained traction as an acceptable measure of learned knowledge. These credentials “validate that a learner has acquired skills after completion of a course, program, or non-credit study. Credentials include digital badges, certification, certificates, and other forms.”
Green asked about the difference between certificates and certifications. Certification and certificate are often used interchangeably as forms of alternative credentials, explained Akehurst.
Certification represents more comprehensive study than a certificate. It often includes an assessment or exam of an individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, based on a body of knowledge pertaining to a profession or occupation. For example, registered nurses and certified public accountants must pass exams to attain certification.
A certificate relates to a course or program that emphasizes learning events and coursework completion to increase knowledge and skills.
“An individual demonstrates the willingness and aptitude to continuously learn,” said Akehurst. “The certificate can be highly customized and unique to the course or program.”
Certificates present an opportunity for employers to invest in upskilling, retention of employees, or individuals to learn more about a particular industry and highlight on a resume.
“For example, UMKC TalentLink offers certificates for completion of programs such as ‘Build a Solid Cybersecurity Foundation within your Organization’ and ‘Essential Skills for First Time Supervisors.’”
“Employers have traditionally recruited college graduates for digital media professionals,” said Green. “Why would they want to consider someone with certifications rather than a four-year degree?”
“Companies are facing competition for skilled, qualified workers,” said Akehurst. “I hear a familiar refrain – We Need People. Simply put, the four-year degree path isn’t the only option for job seekers. Investing in professional development can help retain talented employees and provide growth opportunities. Covering the costs of certificates and certifications for employees are an efficient option.”
Certification and certificate are often used interchangeably as forms of alternative credentials.
Shifting the focus to job seekers, Green asked why people who are interested in a digital media career should consider taking the certification path.
“Certificates and certification provide a focus on relevant industry specific content,” said Akehurst. “You receive instruction from professionals in the field. Courses can lead to networking and career development opportunities. These credentials are also less expensive compared to four-year degree. A college degree has its merits, too.”
Alternative credentials also involve a shorter timeframe for completion. Participants typically acquire practical skills and produce portfolios that digital media firms wish to see. Perhaps most importantly, students will determine quickly if they have the career potential or not.
“Can getting a certification be of any value to a professional already in a digital media job?” asked Green.
“I clearly believe professional development is always a good investment throughout your career,” said Akehurst. “Along with networking and learning with peers, certification creates an opportunity to share expertise. You can also develop a new skill for career advancement potential.”