By looking at skills-based learning and microcredentials, institutions can directly connect degree programs to the workforce.

Students say microcredentials help them stand out in the workforce


By adopting skills-based learning, higher education institutions can fill gaps in their curricula and directly connect their degree programs to the labor market

An overwhelming majority of surveyed students say they believe earning microcredentials or professional certificates will better position them for employment upon graduation, according to new data from Coursera.

Coursera surveyed 3,600 students and employers in Australia, India, France, Germany, Mexico, Turkey, the UK, and the U.S. to understand the motivations and challenges facing different groups as they finish their education and enter the workforce.

Most students rank job opportunities as their top criteria in choosing a postsecondary path, and ranking a close second is the ability to develop real-world skills and increase earning potential. Students rely on higher education to prepare them to meet their professional goals, but many students feel their institutions are not meeting expectations. Many institutions aren’t keeping pace with teaching students the skills and knowledge needed to compete in today’s workforce, and gaps between education and industry leave students underprepared.

When given 10 options, 43 percent of students identified their ability to get a job among the top three factors motivating their decision to enroll in a degree program. Employability was second in importance only to a school’s location—and more important than its academic strength, reputation, and cost. As students increasingly base their decision to pursue higher education on their desired career outcomes, colleges and universities must take action to support student employability in order to remain competitive.

More than 50 percent of students struggle to both decide what job to pursue and understand what employers are looking for. Receiving a job offer is the endpoint of a broader employability journey: one that begins with becoming aware of and exploring a range of career options. Determining the skills needed to pursue a desired career, and acquiring these skills through a focused plan of study, requires insight into industry dynamics that many higher education institutions are not equipped to provide.

Laura Ascione

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