How Micro-Credentials Can Solve Skills and Talent Shortages | D2L
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  • 4 Min Read

Why Micro-Credentials Are Taking the Working World By Storm

If corporate learning and development (L&D) had an industrywide water cooler, lately we’d be overhearing a whole host of topics ranging from “skills gap” and “talent shortage” to “resignation wave,” “upskilling/reskilling,” and “micro-credentials.” Challenges like these have become top of mind for all L&D professionals due to the ever-increasing rate of technological advancement and the need to find talent for a vast set of emerging skills.

Interestingly, these topics have a cascading effect on one another. Let me explain.

As a refresher, a skills gap is when there is a difference between the skills you have available within your company and the skills you need for current and/or future objectives. This has been a growing concern for many years—and globally, the skills gap is widening at an alarming rate.

Why is the skills gap conversation important? Because a skills gap leads to talent shortages. Emerging roles, such as those in the cybersecurity and artificial intelligence fields, are reporting massive talent shortages, but it’s not restricted to just those “new” jobs. Industries such as manufacturing and retail are also struggling to find and retain the right talent.

Yes, we’ve all got problems we can chat about around the water cooler. But what about solutions?

Enter micro-credentials as one potential solution. Before we dive into how micro-credentialing can help you address these problems, let’s first look at what micro-credentials actually are.

What Are Micro-Credentials?

Micro-credentials are generally understood to be a provable achievement of a skill or competency in a specific focus area. They show that an individual has achieved proficiency, not just spent time in a class. They can be stand-alone or stackable (when you take individual micro-credentials and earn a larger credential over time to show improved proficiency through these stacked achievements).

One of the best explanations of micro-credentials I have heard is this: If you imagine your schooling (whether it be a degree, a certification, or a skilled trade) as the rock-solid foundation of your house, you can think of micro-credentials as the individual bricks used to build upon that foundation to keep moving toward having an awesome house.

So why are businesses looking at micro-credentials as a cornerstone to creating a plan to address the ever-changing skills gap? Let’s look at two different perspectives on why micro-credentials are worth our attention.

Micro-Credentials from the Perspective of the Individual

  • Offer digital accreditation that you can take with you. The micro-credentials you achieve are not tied to your company or your job. They remain recognizable regardless of where your employment journey takes you.
  • Provide others insight into your professional development. Have you ever attempted to tell another person what skills you have been developing through your work? It can be tough to explain and quantify. Micro-credentials give others a quick and easy way to view your skills development over time.
  • Demonstrate continued efforts to improve yourself. Showing that you have embraced lifelong learning with documented and recognizable credentials is a great tool to have in your toolbox for career progression.
  • Act as currency in the workplace. If you are interested in standing out as knowledgeable in a specific area at work, micro-credentials can help you gain that recognition and open opportunities within your workplace.
  • Provide incentives to pursue new skills. The knowledge that going through the effort of working on skills development will be rewarded with documented and recognizable credentials is a great motivator for all the reasons listed above!

Micro-Credentials from the Perspective of the Organization

  • Identify areas for improvement. By collecting information on what credentials exist across your organization, you can develop a plan to develop skills in gap areas.
  • Increase output, productivity. Being able to quickly identify individuals with recognizable skills in specific areas can allow for increased mentorship opportunities that can increase productivity among employees.
  • Demonstrate a culture of learning. Attract high-quality hires by illustrating your company’s focus on lifelong learning, skill development, and support for recognizable credentialing.
  • Help identify hidden talents among your employees. As an employer, you may not know what hidden talents your team members have developed prior to joining your organization. Having documented proof of those skills can be a big boost in getting access to all those competencies.
  • Identify distribution of talent and gaps. Not only can you have better insight into the overall skills across your organization, but you are also able to see teams with high proficiencies in specific areas. You can tap into high-functioning teams to determine whether their skill matrix can be replicated for others.
  • Across sectors, help create alignment with skills needed for continuous improvement. By identifying the up-and-coming skills throughout your specific industry, you can help make sure your teams are ready to embrace future needs.

Micro-credentialing provides a lot of value to both employees and employers. The approach of collecting small, focused skills that can be stacked along a pathway that’s specific to unique needs allows the workforce to upskill and reskill quickly and strategically. Plus, it helps individuals take an active role in the future of their career development while working in their current role.

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