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How micro-credentials can boost your career

How micro-credentials can boost your career

The modern workplace is constantly changing and there is an ever-growing need for professionals to continuously upgrade their skills.

In a CERIC survey conducted last year, 70% of Canadian executives noted challenges in finding skilled employees. Many companies report having a hard time finding employees who have expertise in leadership, critical thinking, planning and communication. This is due, in part, to the lack of skills development and training that should be part of every organization’s work culture.

To counter this skills gap, many countries such as Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand are now including micro-credentials as part of their higher education system. So, what exactly are micro-credentials, and can they transform the future of jobs? Read on to find out. 

What are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are digital badges endorsing the work an individual has completed to upskill. These badges can be added to your personal digital file as academic accomplishments. Unlike a degree, micro-credentials can be achieved in a relatively shorter timeframe, can be completed online and are offered as varied qualifications. The best part is that micro-credential badges can be verified with the issuing institution, ensuring that you have a recognized certificate.

As technology has taken over many parts of our lives, many roles require new skills. A professional working in marketing can get a data-driven credential by working on certain projects and can add this to their list of qualifications while subsequently moving onto a better job. Similarly, teachers aiming to take on leadership roles can use their years of experience to earn micro-credentials to grow in their field. 

Micro-credentials were first seen at a 2010 Mozilla-sponsored conference – Hurst 2015. As digital badges, micro-credentials were a step towards initiating a more non-traditional way of learning that put an emphasis on individual expertise and skill-building. The Open Badges specification by the IMS Global Learning Consortium was used to create these badges.

Micro-credentials are popular with millennials, likely due to how tech-savvy that generation is, with micro-credentials reaching 20 million learners last year. According to Financial Review, the growing trend has resulted in almost 900 universities compiling short courses as micro-credentials to match future job requirements.  

The rise of micro-credentialing

In 2019, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) pushed for skill-based learning that reflects specific competencies ranging from expertise in coding to transferable skills like communication. This knowledge can lead to job success and helps students gain skills to beat the competition. CICan also emphasized that their qualification would provide 100% access to work-integrated learning (WIL). 

The introduction of rapid developments due to COVID-19 called for instant digestible content that helps students and professionals collaborate to achieve their goals. Micro-credentials in business have become an instrumental way for employees to gain skills suited to the changing world we live in and the ability to put their new knowledge to immediate use. 

Companies like IBM, Google and Amazon are encouraging micro-credentialing to boost the skills of their employees. This adds value to employees’ credentials and helps the company meet its objectives. While IBM employees were introduced to the use of cloud software through micro-learning, Google uses this medium to build more productive and executable ways for work enhancement through their “whisper course”. This course is a series of emails that are circulated within the organization for cultural training purposes. The name was coined due to the “whispered” suggestions it carries to take better action and share feedback to boost morale.

Micro-credential examples

Micro-credentials are changing the future of education from a time-based method of learning to a competency-based one. For example, if you have been part of projects where you demonstrated critical thinking, team management, planning and other skills, you can get a project management fundamental badge. This means learning standards are not assigned based on time-specific courses, but skill-specific learning.  

Similarly, someone in the business field who wants to learn strategy-making can enrol for a strategic decision-making course and earn the required certification. Unlike the current one-size-fits-all model, micro-credentials offer personalized learning. They are also job-embedded and can be useful for bridging any knowledge gaps.

Is micro-credentialing for you?

Education must be adapted according to market demand and this is where traditional education is faltering. A survey conducted earlier this year by Northeastern University’s Centre for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy found that of 750 hiring leaders in the United States, 64% feel that the workforce needs continuous upskilling. Micro-credentials can help you fast track your career at various levels. 

Those already employed in the IT field can use digital badges to grow their skills and boost their profile. IT professionals who make the transition from server room to managerial jobs must work on their leadership and communication skills, and micro-credentialing is perfect for enhancing industry-specific soft skills.

Digital badges can also add more substance to the resumés of recent grads, looking for a suitable job and who are looking to beat out competition. By highlighting specific competencies, they will be able to stand out and attract the better job prospects. 

Those already part of the workforce often have experience but are not technologically adept. The digital world is often too fast-paced for some employees, and these professionals can take micro-credentials for a boost. The importance of this cannot be overstated as 40% of Canadians think that their employers must focus on upskilling, and the Royal Bank of Canada is expected to invest an estimated $250 million over the next 10 years to produce a skilled workforce. 

Online platforms are the best way to stay ahead in the professional field. If you are looking for programs to upskill, check out the Online Learning page and short courses offered by University Canada West.

Published on Sept. 16, 2020.