Now in the 17th year of his career in information technology (IT), Eric Hayes wants to work toward a college degree at Northern Virginia Community College. While he has taken a variety of on-the-job training courses, he believes that a formal education will lead to professional gains. Thanks to the expansion of a program in Virginia called Credits for Prior Learning Portal, Credits2Careers program, he and other adults can turn life work experiences into college credit.
“The hours of course study will help me continue to grow in my career field,” he said. “Course work, group collaboration, and lectures are a part of the responsibility of being an active IT professional,” he said. “You can easily get left behind if you do not keep your eyes and ears open. Constant change can be beneficial because it can quickly solve problems as well as streamline convoluted processes. With that being said, knowing about the change or even being a part of it is much more gratifying."
Adults who are interested in using work and life experience to earn credit at Northern Virginia Community College and other schools in the Virginia Community College System, can create an account on the Credits2Careers website (www.credits2careers.org) and list information such as work experience, prior training, certificates or standardized tests. This information is evaluated by the organization’s career advisors who will then let the prospective student know how many college credits they are eligible to receive.
“This initiative is predicated on serving the needs of all students from various backgrounds who have a wealth of knowledge and experience,” said Jenny Carter, Director of Workforce Partnerships and Projects, Virginia Community College System. “Recognizing the expertise that is contained in a student’s background is one way of honoring their past efforts and meeting them where they are in their educational journey, in the arc of their career, and most importantly, where they are in life.”
"The greatest thing about education, knowledge, skills, and capabilities is that they are not confined to a formal classroom. Having diverse life experiences enhances the classroom atmosphere and makes the fabric of our society and our workforce stronger."
— Jenny Carter, Director of Workforce Partnerships and Projects, Virginia Community College System.
A grant from the Lumina Foundation, as part of its All Learning Counts Initiative, provided the funding for the expansion. Professional development, workforce training, professional certifications, exams and standardized test are examples of the types of experiences that students use to earn college credit while taking fewer classes, says Carter
“By awarding credit for prior learning, students are able to avoid any redundancy in training and save crucial time and money,” she said. “Research has shown that by awarding credit for prior learning, students are ultimately assisted in a meaningful, tangible way to accelerate their pathway to earning a degree or licensure leading directly to a well-paying career. Life is full of rich experiences that deserve to be recognized wherever they align to formal training outcomes.”This path to education is designed to create a level playing field for those who want to access to higher education. "Credit for prior learning is one tool to ensure education is available to all, from students with traditional backgrounds to those who have followed another path," said Emily Jones-Green, Virginia Community College System. "The greatest thing about education, knowledge, skills, and capabilities is that they are not confined to a formal classroom. Having diverse life experiences enhances the classroom atmosphere and makes the fabric of our society and our workforce stronger."