Same Skills, Different Credentials: Who Do You Choose?

What decision should be taken between two candidates who have a similar background?

This may be more relevant to some more than others, but let’s all pretend we’re looking to hire someone for an entry-level job that requires a high school education.

Reviewing a stack of applications you frustratingly ask yourself if people actually read job descriptions before applying. Your desk becomes a disheveled workplace/dining table trying to get this position filled. Is that honey mustard on your keyboard?  

The slog is ending and you’re down to two candidates. But, they’re so similar. The only apparent difference: one has a high school diploma, the other a high school equivalency credential. In the end, you choose the diploma holder. But should you?

Let’s be honest, high school equivalency credential stigmas linger. But think to yourself, “Would I like to be forever judged based on decisions I made, or by situations I had little control over, when I was a teenager?” Thinking back to my own memories as a young person is like looking through someone else’s life through my own eyes. Think of how different you were at age 15, at age 22, at age 28.

Whether it was to support their children, parents or siblings, or the result of other life events, the 3 million individuals who drop out of high school each year often times have to choose earning a dollar over a diploma.

Nevertheless, adult learners who have or on a path toward earning their credential can be characterized as individuals who aren’t interested in having their past determine their future. Think of the level of motivation it takes to return to school after a significant hiatus.

“Our students do not have to attend class, they choose to,” said Jason Beard, Tennessee’s director of adult education. “They have proven that they can come to scheduled classes consistently and on time … shown the dedication necessary to work hard … the aptitude to learn and the mental toughness to pass a difficult exam. A high school equivalency diploma represents not only a true academic achievement, but it also is an indication of a potential employee who has both the academic and soft skills necessary to contribute to your organization on day one.”

Our economy demands revitalization in how our country prepares and certifies its workforce. 2014’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was, in a sense, a rallying cry indicating the magnitude of the issue and how government and industry resources need to band together for our own progress.  

The same year also marked the first time newly designed high school equivalency tests were introduced to the U.S. market. These tests now measure Adult College and Career Readiness Standards developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. .

What this means is that high school equivalency earners not only demonstrate knowledge comparable to a high school graduate, but they also demonstrate skills used on a regular basis in today’s workplaces. With more funding, programming and focus on workforce development, employers can expect to see an increase in the number of job applicants possessing high school equivalency credentials.

Understanding this opens doors for high school equivalency earners when employers and our society as a whole are ready to undo our locks. 

Stigmas are stubborn and can often withstand a plethora of evidence to the contrary. Let’s leave this stigma behind. What can uproot this entrenched, dismissive view of high school equivalency earners? Opportunities. Chances where a high school equivalency earner’s performance is the measure of value to an employer.