Each year, we share our 10 most-read stories. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Top 10 focused on microcredentials, the student experience, non-traditional students, and the post-pandemic campus. This year’s 5th most-read story focuses on the impact microcredentials could have on the skills gap.
Last year, a majority of U.S. employers said that 2020 brought more difficulty in filling open jobs due to the skills gap than previous years. Additionally, a Gartner survey found that 58 percent of employees felt that they need new skills in order to successfully do their work.
Without a proper plan of action to provide critical training, organizations risk ineffective business operations and missed employee growth opportunities. To close the skills gap, organizations must prioritize and invest in continued learning opportunities like microcredentials: mini-qualifications that enhance an individual’s skills and knowledge in a specific subject area.
By leveraging existing microcredential programs from educational institutions, companies can effectively upskill and reskill their employees. Simultaneously, universities benefit from corporate partnerships with companies by offering microcredential options, creating more accessible education opportunities and expanding their reach with potential students.
The skills gap becomes a skills canyon
Nearly every industry is feeling the pinch from the current talent shortage. This scarcity is further exacerbated by companies’ need for high-quality employees with specific skills. And as more employers struggle to recruit talent with in-demand skills, candidates who combine technical experience with soft skills, such as listening and attention to detail, become more sought after.
Additionally, underdeveloped training resources and a lack of standardized growth opportunities leave employees feeling unsupported by managers and senior leaders. Without structured programming from their employers, employees may not seek additional external training opportunities, turning the existing skills gap into a skills canyon.
Companies struggling to recruit qualified candidates must instead reskill and upskill existing talent within their organization. By partnering with universities, employers can provide immediate opportunities for employees to continue their education knowing that the microcredential they’re earning is backed by a reputable institution.
What are microcredentials and who needs them?
Unlike academic degree programs, microcredentials are bite-sized educational courses more narrow in focus and take weeks –– or even days –– to complete. They can range in topics from technical skills, like data analytics, to more soft skills, including leadership topics like cultural awareness.
Because of their convenience, microcredentials appeal to employees looking for a highly personalized, flexible, and cost-effective way to further their education. And unlike traditional academic programs, microcredentials don’t contribute to a larger degree sequence, so students can obtain as many or as few credentials as they’d like.
Beyond the benefits they can bring to the current workforce, microcredentials also have the potential to attract new, highly-qualified employees. A company culture that values continued learning, career development and advancement, and helps employees achieve greatness can be an appealing selling point in today’s fierce competition for talent.
Facilitating microcredential programs at your university
Because microcredential programs can be held fully online and executed on a shorter timeline, they are more accessible than traditional higher education initiatives. By creating attainable, accessible, and affordable education opportunities in conjunction with business organizations, universities can tap into a pool of potential students that are already interested and engaged in microcredentials.
When thinking about offering microcredential programs, consider the following:
- Identify gaps: There’s no need to start from scratch when implementing a microcredential program. Begin by taking a proactive look at the skills offered in your existing courses and analyzing the abilities that employers are searching for in their current job postings. From there, identify the gaps microcredentials could fill for companies. You can then align the skills in your current course offerings with organizations’ needs.
- Create stackable degree programs: The beauty of microcredentials is that they can stack together to build into a larger qualification. By offering microcredentials as a part of a larger degree program, some employees may feel compelled to further their education at your university. This end goal is highly valuable to learners who may want a full degree down the line.
Accessible education is the key to rectifying the skills canyon
Microcredentials pave the way for your university to play a significant role in closing the current skills gap. By redesigning existing courses into microcredential and certificate programs, you can market these new offerings to employers and bring new learners to your university. All told, students can broaden the skills in their tool belt, organizations can gain a competitive edge and your institution can encourage accessibility for all learners.
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