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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

• Adriana Harrington

The best gifts are the gifts that we continue to use for years to come. Ohio high school students received one of those perfect gifts in the form of a $34 million legislative allocation over the next two years to increase the number of students earning in-demand, industry-recognized credentials through the state’s new Innovative Workforce Incentive Program.

Courtesy of Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly, this program represents a major funding win for districts and schools, rewarding them for each student who earns an industry-recognized credential matching up with workforce needs in that industry. Districts and schools can accelerate their efforts to make this program a success using the recently updated list of eligible, industry-recognized credentials.

Incentivization of in-demand, industry-recognized credentials goes right to the heart of ensuring Ohio’s high school students are set up for success after graduation.

3 Strengths of the Ohio Innovation Workforce Incentive Program

This thoughtful approach to industry-recognized credentials will help young Ohioans have greater career options and earnings.

  1. Ohio is targeting its investment to in-demand, industry-recognized credentials that provide the most value to students and the economy.

Ohio has intentionally fostered collaboration across agencies to analyze earnings and workforce demand to ensure the credentials in the program have meaning—and are recognized and valued by employers. The highest-value credentials are those that align to a living wage and are “stackable” onto additional credentials and/or postsecondary programs, helping to support future career advancement.

  1. The program provides funds to start-up Career & Technical Education programs in qualifying industry sectors.

Schools may be limited in the types of industry-recognized credentials they can offer because they don’t have the right equipment or materials in place. These funds help remove that barrier and expand access for students interested in Ohio’s most promising careers.

  1. Schools receive funds for students who pass qualifying credentials.

Earning in-demand, industry-recognized credentials should be celebrated. Credential programs are rigorous and require robust preparation to ensure students have the knowledge and skills to be successful in the aligned field. Incentive funds for schools reward their students’ achievements and also provide resources for schools to invest in creating or strengthening programs that prepare students to earn high-value credentials.

High-Quality, In-Demand Credentials Lead to Greater Earning Potential

Earning a high-value, industry-recognized credential can greatly increase a student’s annual and lifetime earnings. Consider, for example, a CompTIA A+ certificate that leads to a career as computer user support specialist with a median annual income of $55,050. Or the Certified EEG/EKG/ECG Technician credential, which leads to a Cardiovascular Technologist and Technician role and a median income of $58,730. Both careers also have advancement options through further credentialing or postsecondary education. Both of these salaries are at or above the median household income and the estimated living wage in Ohio.

These are meaningful differences in quality of life and lifetime earnings—based on a policy that’s a gift that can keep on giving.

Learn More

Curious about your state’s credential attainment and alignment to workforce demand? Check out Credentials Matter to explore if the credentials your students are earning match what employers need. Interested in giving the gift of lifelong success to high school students in your state through high-quality credentials? I’m here to help! Send me an email at

About the author

Adriana Harrington @AdrianaHarrin17

Adriana Harrington is the Director of Innovation Policy. Prior to joining ExcelinEd Adriana worked at the Tennessee Department of Education, most recently serving as the Director of Project Management for the Division of Consolidated Planning and Monitoring and the Division of School Improvement. In this role, Adriana lead the department’s statewide school improvement initiatives to increase student outcomes in schools performing in the bottom five percent. She previously served as the Program Manager, Student Readiness for the Division of College, Career and Technical Education. Adriana was also a high school social studies teacher in Memphis for several years and a Teach for America Corps Member. Adriana earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Public Policy from Duke University.