Why higher ed needs to get on board with micro-credentials

With alternative and non-degree credentials becoming ever more appealing to employers, colleges and universities are in the perfect position to corner the market.

A new study focusing on employers’ perspectives on micro-credentials reveals that while a strong majority of them believe it boosts a prospective hire’s value, not enough colleges and universities are capitalizing on it.

More than 70% of respondents agreed that job applicants with non-degree or alternative credentials have increased the past two years and those hires helped their organization fill an existing skill gap (74%) and improved the quality of their workforce (73%). It’s no wonder, then, that 71% affirmed that their organization is becoming more accepting of non-degree or alternative credentials in lieu of traditional four-year degrees.

A résumé containing micro-credentials is increasingly advantageous. A whopping 95% of employers said a résumé listing micro-credentials benefited the candidate because it demonstrates a willingness for skill development (76%), and most employers were not concerned about non-degree credentials having an adverse effect on the workforce.

With alternative and non-degree credentials becoming increasingly more appealing to employers, colleges and universities are in the perfect position to corner the market. However, schools may be bungling this opportunity. Less than half of employers were approached by schools to build micro-credential programs.

“Micro-credentials can play a critical role in the new economy. However, similar to how online degrees were perceived two decades ago, some are critical about the quality of non-degree programs, despite a lack of evidence to support a systematic problem,” said Jim Fong, Chief Research Officer at UPCEA.

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How schools can benefit from a joint-developed micro-credential curriculum

Sixty-eight percent of employers would like to be approached by a college or university to develop micro-credentials, and there are multiple reasons this would be beneficial to both parties.

As students struggle with staying engaged in classes and feeling disconnected from the real world, the majority of employers agreed micro-credentials’ greatest benefit is that they give people practical, real-world experience. Schools can motivate a student base lacking purpose by exposing them to opportunities built with direct input from the industries they aspire to join after graduating.

Most organizations work with four-year colleges or universities (49%) and community colleges (45%) to provide training or learning opportunities to their employees, so while collaborating on micro-credentials may be unfamiliar territory, the connection is well established.

Executives, supervisors and HR staff still more highly value a traditional degree over non-degree credentials. They are more of a supplement than a replacement.

University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and edtech company Collegis partnered for this study, which reflects the opinions of 514 employers from different organizations. Each individual surveyed oversees or directly works in employee development and hiring, operates at an organization with more than 100 employees, is above an entry-level position and is deemed qualified to speak about their respective company’s needs in training and professional development. The majority worked in finance (14%), followed by healthcare (13%) and manufacturing (12%).

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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