From the first Industrial Revolution to the creation of the iPhone, technology has always changed the way we work. Yet today, that rate of change is at an all time high. This exponential speed of growth is unlike previous generations’ experience, and has significant impacts on how we’re training and reskilling for work.
What this means, is the shelf life for skills is much shorter than it used to be, with some estimates putting it close to six years. This expiry date for skills also extends to many of the standard three year university degrees we see in Australia, with some university leaders estimating that around 40% of existing degrees will soon be obsolete.
In the past we’ve adopted a model of study at school, do at work. But this model is rapidly becoming outdated. The average 15 year-old will likely have 17 jobs across five different careers in their lifetime, so we need to create a system that both cultivates their lifelong learning, and supports continuous upskilling and reskilling to be able to move across their working life. It’s impractical to expect young people to stop working and go back to university or TAFE each time they change jobs or careers.
This is where the potential of microcredentials comes in.
So what are microcredentials?
Are they just really small credentials? Yes, essentially they are.
Microcredentials recognise the achievement of a skill, skill sets or knowledge that is required by industry, professional associations, or the community. They are also referred to as nanodegrees, badges or stackable microdegrees. Depending on the type of organisation that is delivering or validating the microcredentials, they can be verified by employers, industry or through a formal certification process.
The best thing about microcredentials, is that they offer a new way to think about certifying a portfolio of skills, recognising small and discrete learning, as well as credentialing existing knowledge and skills. FYA’s New Work Order research series has highlighted the need to develop a portfolio of skills that are transferable across jobs in order to navigate the future of work. Microcredentials therefore offer enormous potential for our workforce through focussing on developing that portfolio of skills.
Here are a few examples of how microcredentials are already working in Australia and abroad:
#1 New Zealand
The New Zealand Government has recently completed pilots for microcredentials with three organisations to understand the value of them and how they can support a workforce of the future. microcredentials were found to be very beneficial in the pilot program, and they are now being implemented as part of the New Zealand Qualification Framework, allowing for the recognition of this new type of recognition of learning.
Udacity aims to reinvent education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment. They offer nanodegrees developed in collaboration with industry partners (such as Google, IBM, Facebook, MailChimp) and seek to provide skills in demand in short-course form.
#3 RMIT Creds
RMIT is providing industry-relevant digital credentials designed with employers and industry to help individuals develop skills and capabilities for life and work. The digital badges provide a web-enabled record of professional skills that are increasingly valued and recognised by employers.
DeakinCo is providing formal recognition of the skills and knowledge of employees with its independent, university-backed Professional Practice credentials. Microcredential options range from enterprise skills, such as problem-solving and self-management, to leadership and technical knowledge like digital marketing, design thinking and leading and developing people. The goal is to provide independent proof of professional capabilities.
Microcredentials still have a way to go, including developing a common understanding of what they are, but they show great promise in providing a solution that gives our current and emerging workforce more responsive training and opportunities to develop the skills needed for the future of work just in time.