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Can Micro-Credentials Close the Tech Skills Gap in Baby Steps?

Future of adult learning: less is more

According to the latest trends in adult education and the reality on the ground, when it comes to adult education, less is more. In reskilling to tech professions, for example, concentrated training programs prove to be more effective than formal, multi-year science degrees. Even before the onset of Covid-19, Gartner identified the global talent shortage in the tech sector to be one of the top three emerging risks facing organisations.

Now, with millions out of work, the best way to fill this gap is to reskill them for tech jobs. Unfortunately, conventional pedagogical models and lengthy academic studies leave much to be desired. People are looking for cost-effective, time-sensitive solutions that will get them back into the workforce ASAP. Meanwhile employers demand more than knowledge these days, liking employees to demonstrate certain soft skills – such as collaboration and communication.

Micro-credentials: The Great Learning Hope

Micro-credentials are the latest trend in upskilling and training. This new innovative pedagogical approach aims to provide value to millions around the world. It looks to equip them quickly and effectively with the skills needed to jumpstart, or restart, their careers. The concept is quickly gaining steam. In Australia for example, the government has green lighted AU$4.3 million (about US$3 million) to fund the creation of a national marketplace for micro-credentials. The goal of the project is to quickly reskill Australia’s unemployed professionals with skills in high demand via short programs made available on the marketplace. According to Australia’s Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, micro-credentials offer the opportunity to learn new skills and become more job ready. “Micro-credentials address the most common barriers cited by adult workers who are not intending to undertake further formal training or study: time and cost.” Mr. Tehan said.

What exactly are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are qualifications that denote an individual’s demonstrated ability or knowledge in a specific skill found in a particular industry area. Narrower in range and focused on practical skill advancement, a micro-credential course can be completed in as little as eight weeks and at a relatively low cost. These courses are developed with a specific industry in mind. This ensures that graduates are qualified to meet the needs of that industry, thus increasing employability. Instead of spending years learning academic fundamentals and long courses that might not add professional value, micro-credentials enable an individual to expand their skill set in a matter of weeks or months via highly practical studies geared towards a specific profession.

Micro-credential graduates are recognised through digital badges and online certificates that can be put on resumes, professional profiles, or email signatures. However, these courses are not focused solely on facts and knowledge. There are micro-credentials for soft skills in a wide range of topics, such as teamwork, communication, and problem solving.

The benefits of micro-credentials

Micro-credentials offer relevant knowledge and skills at a low-cost point and within a short time. Courses can be taken offline or online, live or on-demand, from a variety of education companies. They empower both lifelong learning and fast reskilling towards new professions – a powerful combination. Here are a few more benefits that micro-credentials offer:

  • Practical education — While you were in school did you ever ask yourself how will this help me in life? With micro-credentials, that does not happen. Each course is focused on providing practical skills or knowledge relevant to a particular job, career, or industry.
  • Gamified recognition — Micro-credentials make learning fun and rewarding by recognising course completion or on-the-job training through digital badges that can be prominently displayed on online profiles, resumes, and social networks.
  • Modularity — Micro-credential courses are designed for flexibility and modularity, enabling individuals to pick and choose between different courses to create custom programs suited to specific job roles.
  • Job Relevance — With micro-credentials, individuals can choose courses geared towards filling the jobs needed in the market right now. If there is a need for digital marketers, competent individuals can personally select any combination of courses that strengthen their competency towards such jobs’ requirements.
  • Career advancement — Micro-credentials represent a new way for employers to empower their employees and advance the acquisition of new skills on the job. This methodology is also advantageous for helping new recruits succeed in their roles.

Are micro-credentials the path to tech jobs? Not exactly.

Wawiwa Tech Training is a tech training company that partners to establish local training centres around the world for the reskilling of people to tech professions in high demand. The company’s management builds on decades of experience in tech training in 7 countries, both on campus and online.

While Wawiwa’s vision aligns perfectly with the rationale behind micro-credentials, the company offers a different perspective on micro-credentials. “We also believe that training programs should be practical and aligned with the industry’s burning need for talent,” says Leah Mansoor, VP Business Development at Wawiwa.

“However, we cannot be naive and believe that someone with no experience would be great at a professional tech job after an 8-week crash course or a hands-off online course. To become a tech professional at entry level, one needs a thorough reskilling program that spans 6 to 9 months and includes both frontal lectures and hundreds of hours of hands-on exercise, alone and in groups. It’s still much faster than a computer science degree, but it’s much deeper and better than any single micro-credential course.”

“Micro-credentials are great for catching up with market trends, and homing in on a specific skill,” says Mansoor, “but proper training for a job isn’t something that you can get online in baby steps. It requires a significant time investment. Employer’s demand more from their tech talent.”

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