Every day, you help jobseekers find a professional path that they might not otherwise have considered. Sometimes that shift requires reskilling or upskilling through academic programs – a potentially time-intensive prospect at which many busy professionals balk.
But when you’re looking at academic possibilities with your clients, are you — and they — looking at micro-credentials?
What are micro-credentials?
Micro-credentials are a relatively new learning option that focus on acquiring practical knowledge and skills. They are short, focused educational experiences that can provide a certification or skills for someone in their chosen field of work — or a field they want to go into. It could be as specific as a technical skill they need for an ever-evolving job in a digital world or a wider competency (e.g. leadership and management) that could serve a client as they progress professionally.
CICan (Colleges & Institutes Canada) defines micro-credentials as “a certification of assessed competencies that is additional, alternate, complementary to, or a component of a formal qualification.”
And if one micro-credential isn’t enough, a jobseeker can stack several so they have a variety of complementary skills that may add up to a certification or credential. This equips them with a broad suite of competencies, rather than simply academic outcomes, to help propel them professionally.
Each program has its own demands but time obligations can range from days to weeks to months — still much less time than a traditional degree or credential. There’s a wide range of costs associated with micro-credentials in British Columbia and across the country, from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
How do they help?
The principle behind micro-credentials is simple: Learn it today, apply it tomorrow. Simple, yes, but that learning can be life-changing.
In a fluid and evolving job market, credentials or certifications earned 10 or 20 years ago don’t carry the same weight they once did. But micro-credentials address employers’ current needs while breaking down a common hiring bias that says the person being hired must have the same experience and qualifications as the person doing the hiring.
“The principle behind micro-credentials is simple: Learn it today, apply it tomorrow.”
As well, someone who has experience and skills in one field – for example, as a front-of-house staff in the hospitality industry – may, with a little more education, present as a competitive candidate for another position (e.g. project management). Micro-credentials can also provide a gateway to stable, well-paying employment for people who’ve long scraped by in survival jobs.
In addition, micro-credentials provide access to learning for people who might not otherwise have it. Maybe they don’t have the time or money to complete an undergrad degree or a mid-career master’s degree; maybe they don’t have the desire to take on an entire post-secondary program to nail down the one key skill that’s holding them back.
Access to learning is crucial because, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, it’s estimated about 80% of job openings in B.C. over the next decade will require some sort of post-secondary education.
What can they learn?
The provincial government announced earlier this year an initiative to fast-track British Columbians’ ability to gain education and skills they’ll need for high-demand jobs during a post-pandemic recovery. Here are just a few examples of 24 micro-credential courses the province funded:
- web and digital design for transitioning online (entry-level skills for website design/development, computer programmer and media developer) — Emily Carr University of Art and Design;
- industrial automation for engineering and technology students and professionals looking to upskill or transfer to a career in emerging industrial automation sectors — UBC Okanagan;
- renewable energy fundamentals for electricians for safe, efficient designs and installations with emerging technologies — Thompson Rivers University;
- and, here at Royal Roads, where 150 students took micro-credential courses between January and March of this year, in workplace communications (writing, digital and social media communication) and leading projects in a digital environment.
In short, post-secondary institutions are creating micro-credentials focused on the needs of industry — and, by extension, the needs of the jobseekers you serve every day.