The U.S. currently sees many job openings, with more than 11 million unfilled positions. Millions of young people struggle to find a job that aligns with their skills and knowledge. America’s employers are having trouble filling jobs because many Americans are quitting in droves. The Labor Department said that quits jumped to 4.3 million in August 2021, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, and up from 4 million in July 2021.
While some of this crisis directly results from the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many underlying issues in determining candidates’ qualifications for a job. Most employers rely on graduates’ resumes and transcripts as proof of their qualifications, but these two items only tell half of the story of a candidate.
The recruiting revolution
The U.S. education system emphasizes students’ GPA, especially in high school. Many students can show up to class, do their work, and receive good grades.
But when entering the workforce, individuals must present much more than grades to prove they can be an asset to employers. We’re seeing now, and will continue to see in the future, a trend in which recruiters focus less on grades and more on what skills a candidate will bring to a company.
With the ongoing labor shortage and the abundance of job openings, employers are looking to hire candidates that are experts in their field but also considering several other factors. They may have 20 candidates with a college degree, but this alone doesn’t determine their fit with the company culture, reliability, communication skills, or whether they work well with others.
Many graduates enter the workforce not knowing how to quantify or verify the skills they have acquired during their academic journey. Most don’t have a way of keeping track of those skills; in other cases, no awareness that taking courses can provide more than just a letter grade built into their GPA.
Using digital tools to help students track skills and achievements
Throughout a student’s academic journey, they will build various skills inside and outside the classroom. Almost every experience a student has throughout their college journey shapes them to become future professionals.
We need to give students a way to track their skills and learning experiences to enter the workforce with concrete evidence of their obtained skills. This can be done through a Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR), which has become one of the most valuable resources we can provide to students to guide them through their college journey and beyond. Universities and colleges see the impact skills tracking can have on their students’ success post-graduation. This past year, Morgan State University tapped into this opportunity and will begin tracking students’ skills this fall.
Designed to capture all aspects of learning activities in school and life, CLRs provide complete competencies and skills-based transcripts. CLRs can help students determine the skills they have obtained – skills a student themself might not know they have. Having a CLR in a portable and secure digital wallet in the blockchain allows learners additional socioeconomic mobility and institutions to understand better how graduates put their skills to work for society.
For example, a liberal arts major must take a science class and might not understand why or how this course will benefit them. Using a CLR to track skills, they can understand how the system helped build their problem-solving, teamwork, and time management skills while learning about photosynthesis.
Other benefits come from providing students with this type of digital tool. For students who enter college unsure about what to major in, this tool can offer insight to them, and their academic advisors into what careers may align with their skills. Likewise, students that have chosen their degree and are having second thoughts can use a CLR to present other options based on the skills and knowledge they have already acquired.
CLRs, also known as learning and employment records (LERs), help learners who are looking to continue their education or individuals already in the workforce seeking new opportunities. Having CLRs/LERs on blockchain secure digital wallets provide the chance to connect the entire ecosystem, from education institutions to employers, more transparently and equitably.
Demonstrating the ROI of a college degree
Employers and people looking to join the workforce are not the only ones currently facing a crisis. Higher education institutions are seeing a significant decrease in undergraduate enrollment. Undergraduate enrollment in fall 2021 dropped 3.1 percent, or by 465,300 students, compared to a year earlier. Going to college for many families is still prohibitive, and they consider multiple learning options in their “go-to-market” strategy.
Colleges and universities must provide students with a higher level of fluency in the skills and competencies they are acquiring to represent themselves better when looking for jobs. Higher education institutions also understand that their system must be more “porous” to allow their students to gain skills and competencies in and outside the institution’s walls, virtual or not.
With the ROI of a college degree in question, institutions are scrambling to attract prospective students and retain current students. Data about how students fare when they graduate is critical. When a university can say, “X percent of our students received a job offer in their field in X amount of time,” they can provide a compelling argument for students considering enrollment.
Implementing CLRs and digital wallets accepted by employers can help institutions demonstrate their value for their students’ success and achievement. The positive results produced by a CLR platform that seamlessly connects to any LMS and issues blockchain secure portable wallets provide a persuasive component in ensuring students that everything they experience during their college journey will be well worth their investment.
Dr. Suarez is an expert in education innovation, leadership, and change. Author and TED speaker, he serves as Vice President of Higher Education and Workforce Development at Territorium, Board Chair of Prontopia, and member of the Board of Governors at Antioch University.
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