Micro-credentials: The solution to the skills gap and accessible education

By reformatting existing programs into micro-credentials and certificates, you can market these new programs to employers and bring new learners through your doors.

At the end of 2020, 80% of U.S. employers said they had more difficulty filling job openings due to skills gaps compared to the year before — and the skills gap isn’t going away anytime soon.

Mike Caruso is manager of Instructional Design and Project Management at All Campus.

In fact, a recent Gartner survey found that 58% of employees need new skills to successfully do their work. If organizations don’t provide necessary training, they risk the inability to perform critical business activities, inefficient operations and missed growth opportunities.

To close the skills gap, organizations need to invest in upskilling opportunities like micro-credentials — mini-qualifications that demonstrate an individual’s abilities, knowledge or experience in a specific subject area. With micro-credentials, companies can leverage programs from educational institutions to upskill and reskill their workforce. For universities, micro-credentials can unlock corporate partnerships, expand their reach and create more accessible educational opportunities.

The skills gap continues to widen

The current talent shortage impacts nearly every industry, but it’s not simply about finding talent. It’s about sourcing talent with the right expertise for the job. Employers are struggling to recruit qualified candidates with in-demand skills like artificial intelligence, cloud technologies and coding, as well as soft skills like listening and attention to detail.

Compounding this problem is the lack of training resources from companies that need to upskill and/or reskill employees. Without support from their employers, employees may not seek additional training opportunities, widening the skills gap even further.

Organizations struggling to recruit the right talent need to develop and train their existing workforce. Partnering with universities creates immediate opportunities for employees to further their education with the knowledge that the micro-credential they’re earning is backed by a reputable institution.

How do micro-credentials work and who do they benefit?

The benefits of micro-credentials make them an appealing and convenient option for students and organizations. Unlike academic degrees, micro-credentials are more narrow in focus and can be completed in weeks or even days. They can range from soft skills training like self-management to the more pressing technical skills needed by employers, like data analytics. Additionally, micro-credentials provide a more personalized learning experience that is flexible, portable and cost-effective to implement.

Micro-credentials aren’t just a great way for companies to upskill their current workforce — they can also help attract new employees. An organizational culture that promotes advancement and learning opportunities can be an attractive selling point in the competition for talent.

How to implement micro-credential programs at your institution

Upskilling initiatives offer valuable opportunities for universities. Micro-credential programs can occur fully online and on a shorter timeline. With this flexibility, micro-credentials create more accessible and affordable education opportunities for a wider range of learners. University programs are appealing to employers because they eliminate the need to create upskilling and reskilling programs in-house.

To start offering micro-credential programs:

  • Identify gaps: You don’t have to start from scratch to create a micro-credentialing program. Instead, take a proactive approach by comparing the skills offered in your existing courses with the abilities and expertise employers are searching for in their job postings and identify any gaps that micro-credentials can fill for organizations. You can then align the skills offered in your current course offerings with organizations’ needs.
  • Create stackable degree programs: You can also make your micro-credentials stackable and build them into a larger qualification (e.g., offer them as degree credits) to entice employees to further their education at your university. This elevates the overall value for learners who may want a degree down the line.

Accessible education can help fill the skills gap

Micro-credentials enable your university to play a vital role in closing the skills gap. By reformatting existing programs into micro-credentials and certificates, you can market these new programs to employers and bring new learners through your doors. Ultimately, students can broaden their skill set, organizations can remain competitive and your institution can advance accessibility for all learners.

Mike Caruso is a results-driven learning and talent development leader with demonstrated success growing and improving individuals, teams and organizations. In his role at All Campus, Mike is instrumental in helping leading universities by collaborating closely with faculty throughout the instructional design and course development process. He serves as a partner and advocate for AC universities as they embark on a full instructional design process.

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