ACE Works to Expand Acceptance of Digital Records and Credentials with Community College Systems with Support from Walmart
June 23, 2022

ACE has received a grant from Walmart to help millions of working adults gain access to postsecondary education and more economic opportunities through the expansion of digital platforms and exchanges. The funding will support community college systems, students, and workers in the use of emerging and existing digital resources, such as learning and employment records (LERs), blockchain, and digital credentials. 

This yearlong project will initiate a national systems data collection process for credentials, employers, and transfer equivalencies, housed within ACE’s Prior Learning Network. ACE will also pilot with several community college systems to support the acceptance of digital credentials and LERs to strengthen workforce partnerships and learner outcomes. The power and value of the LER is its ability to track work, earnings, skills, and credentials. Similar to an academic transcript, LERs can document, verify, and transmit qualifications between employers, learners, and institutions, rather than using a third-party entity. 

“Community colleges are key to this work because meeting learner needs requires buy-in from institutions well-versed in the intersection of work and learning,” said Michele Spires, ACE’s assistant vice president of Learning Evaluation. “Also, they are uniquely situated to assist part-time and working learners from underserved backgrounds and share visions connected to student equity, achievement, economic vitality, accessibility, and success.” 

The $500,000 grant will support three phases of work: 

  1. Analysis of all the current efforts being done in the blockchain and LER communities, including existing initiatives and projects, lessons learned (and being learned), and key recommendations from many current projects. 
  2. Pilot testing of LER implementation with select employers and 2-3 community college systems to clarify and document needs for broader LER implementation. 
  3. A final report to include toolkits and/or playbooks that incorporate strategies and recommendations for community college systems that will be critical to sector-wide adoption of LERs and blockchains. 

“We’re excited to see how ACE’s partnership with community colleges moves the use of digital resources such as learning and employment records forward,” said Shannon Rowan, senior manager, opportunity at Walmart. “This project has the potential to not only open up opportunities to talented workers who want to continue on their educational or career journeys, but also help community colleges who want to move forward into the next phase of innovative practices.” 

The final report and key takeaways will be presented next year in Washington, DC, at ACE2023, ACE’s Annual Meeting.​

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