HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: The Rise of “Stackable Certificates” in place of college degrees. Note, however, that colleges aren’t out of the loop here. But there are still issues:

That’s not to say that manufacturers and colleges always see eye-to-eye. In fact, many companies feel higher education has failed to create a pipeline of skilled workers. An estimated 600,000 manufacturing jobs are currently unfilled.

“We’re dealing with an industry that has lost a lot of faith in working with education,” said Jacey Wilkins, a spokeswoman for the Manufacturing Institute, which is affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers. In particular, Wilkins said manufacturers have been frustrated with the dismantling of vocational education.

So the institute decided to take matters into its own hands, and came up with standards for the education of manufacturing employees. The group created its manufacturing skills certification system in 2009. The “stackable” credentials include four tiers of competency for applicants and veteran employees to demonstrate, ranging from basic aptitude – like showing that they can get to work on time and work in teams – to proving that they have high-tech skills in specialized manufacturing fields, like machinery or medical technology.

The certifications are stackable because they build on each other, with each level presumably having value but also leading to a next step, which can in turn lead to promotions on the job.

Read the whole thing. And note that the “higher education” involvement is led by “most notably the University of Phoenix and a growing number of community colleges.”