Stackable Credentials Critical to Increasing Latino Success In Healthcare IndustryDeborah Santiago | Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy, Excelencia in Education
Occupations in the health fields are among the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. workforce and Latinos have responded to this growth. In the last four years, Latino attainment of credentials in health fields increased 161 percent for certificates, 44 percent for associates, 74 percent for bachelors and 38 percent for doctoral degrees. Overall, Latinos increased their representation from 10 to 13 percent of those earning credentials in health fields in a given year.
While Latinos increased their credentials at all academic levels in health fields, their attainment was overwhelmingly at the certificate level. In 2012-13, over 75 percent of Latinos who earned credentials in the health fields earned them at the certificate (50 percent) or associate (26 percent) academic levels. While this educational attainment level prepares Latinos for the fastest growing occupations in health fields—home health aides and personal care aides—these support occupations have the lowest salaries in health fields.
Latinos’ success at the certificate level in health fields creates the opportunity to increase their representation and academic preparation for occupations with higher salaries and economic mobility. Between 2012 and 2022, occupations in healthcare support are projected to increase 28 percent and in health practitioners to increase 22 percent. Latinos are twice as likely to be employed in healthcare support occupations than practitioner occupations. In 2014, Latinos represented 16 percent of those employed in healthcare support occupations, such as home health aides, and 8 percent of those employed in practitioner occupations, such as registered nurses and physicians.
Creative or stackable credentials serve as one strategy to meet this opportunity. Creating clear pathways for Latinos through such credentials is essential to reduce current educational and workforce barriers to success. For Latinos working in health fields, stackable credentials can also lead to better economic outcomes for their families. According to the U.S. Employment and Training Administration, a stackable credential is a “part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher-paying jobs.”
Public policymakers, employers, and institutional leaders have the opportunity to facilitate the academic and economic progress of Latinos (and all other communities) who have shown investment and success at certificate levels by scaffolding their knowledge with stackable credentials. This would allow Latinos to move forward to earn more advanced credentials and thus, to higher-paying occupations. For example, within health fields, stackable credentials could allow someone working as a home health aide to earn enough credits to obtain an associate degree and become a Registered Nurse (RN), resulting in a higher salary. Moving through the pipeline, the RN can continue their education and gain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Each of these credential levels result in better economic outcomes for the individual and their community. This particular stackable credential pathway would allow someone to increase his or her median salary from $21,000 per year as a home health aide with a certificate to $96,000 per year as a nurse practitioner with a MSN or DNP degree.
Institutions can employ effective practices to increase Latino success using stackable credentials. These effective practices and strategies reflect what we know works for Latino students in higher education on a broader level. They include:
- Creating clear pathways for Latinos to move through the educational pipeline and build upon their existing skill sets;
- Targeting students who have attained a certificate to go back to school;
- Offering financial aid to offset the need of students to work full-time while continuing their education;
- Scheduling classes after standard work hours so that adults can continue their education after work; and,
- Partnering with local employers to ensure students have a link to the workforce and new employment opportunities.
More information on Latinos in health fields, as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and evidence-based practices improving Latino student success can be found atwww.EdExcelencia.org.
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 Excelencia in Education. (2015). Finding Your Workforce: Latinos in Health. Washington, D.C.: Excelencia in Education
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. Most New Jobs, Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. Employment Projections: 2012-22 News Release. 2013. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. Household Data Annual Averages,Table 11: Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity. 2015. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm
 McCarthy. Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. Stackable Credentials: What Are They? 2012.http://www.doleta.gov/taaccct/pdf/presenters/McCarthy.pdf
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Author Perspective: Association