Employers hire for skills, not just degrees. Job market trends show that over half of all jobs across the US require at least an associate level degree, the high competitiveness of the job market means that just having a degree does not warrant employment. In addition to having the minimum requisite credentials, job-seekers are expected to demonstrate specific practical skills to be preferred for the most coveted positions. Acquiring the much-demanded skills has become easier with time, due to a hyperconnected environment enabled by the internet. Both students and employees are using the internet to gain knowledge and skills that would enhance their employability and career prospects, respectively. The growing popularity of online courses is a direct result of people’s willingness to stay abreast of the developments in the job market. Instead of going in for generic, long-term courses, students are preferring short-term certifications in a specific area of interest. The short-term courses or micro-credentials are receiving a strong acknowledgment by employers too, who find these courses quite helpful to augment the performance of their employees.
Implications for learners
Graduates seeking employment and employees seeking promotion use micro-credentials as a way to achieve their respective objectives. Students can now pick a skill of their choice and learn about it from experts across the world. While the classes are structured like regular university courses, the way the information is consumed is totally up to the students. All thanks to MOOCs, students can now access micro-credentials from anywhere using the internet, and take lessons at their own pace. Since the courses are highly focused and to-the-point, micro-credentials are quite suitable for working professionals who can’t take away too much time from their job to study.
The most significant benefit offered by micro-credentials is their affordability – both in time and money. Financially, earning a micro-credential costs just a fraction of earning university diplomas. In addition to requiring low monetary investment, earning micro-credentials also demands low time investment. Acquiring a micro-credential can take anywhere between a month and a year, with a weekly commitment of a few hours, which means even the busiest of people can find time to take these courses. The low time and monetary investment, combined with the potential impact of micro-credentials on an individual’s career, make them highly cost-effective.
Increased career mobility
Employed workers are using micro-credentials to increase their job mobility, both vertical and lateral. Employees seeking vertical growth take courses on advanced functional skills or general leadership skills. Employees can also achieve lateral mobility by gaining knowledge and credentials in a different function altogether.
Implications for employers
Employers can be considered as the ultimate consumers in the job market as they stand to benefit the most from any improvement in the workforce. Any technology or trend that improves the quality of labor is embraced and supported by employers. The rising popularity of micro-credentials is among the job market trends that promise a more skilled workforce, which means that employers are unquestionably on board. Employers are increasingly recognizing micro-credentials as a way of assessing an individual’s suitability for a function, and are using them to meet their organization’s skill demand.
Employers are encouraging, and even rewarding employees, who are showing the motivation to learn new skills and acquire micro-credentials. Corporate employers are also using micro-learning platforms to upskill promising employees to give them higher roles in the organization without having to hire from outside, which might be more expensive.
Minimized skills gap
As the market demand and technology continue to evolve, so do organizations and their people. However, due to the rapid progress and evolution in the market, organization’s are finding it increasingly difficult to help their employees to adapt and learn. This difficulty is due to the inability of an organization to balance the key tasks of running and growing the operations, while simultaneously training the employees to keep up. Consequently, there a skill gap in organizations, as is evident from the current job market trends, especially the job trends in the USA. With the help of micro-credentials, employers can stop worrying about the skill gap, and focus on innovation and growth. Micro-credentials and courses created by third-party experts eliminate the need for businesses to create and execute their own training programs, saving time and resources.
Implications for educators
Educators are also aware of the growing popularity of micro-credentials among students, employees, and employers. Educators can not only contribute a great deal to the job market through micro-credentials, they can also benefit from it.
Greater outreach opportunities
Creating valuable courses with the help of expert faculty members, and teaching these courses for micro-credentials on online platforms can enable educational institutions to reach out to a global audience. Leading universities are already running their own online learning platforms, or are contributing courses to third-party platforms. These micro-credential courses, in addition to the knowledge of the course topic, also give a taste of the life in the curating university’s campus. This helps the university from a marketing standpoint and potentially boosts enrolment there.
Educators can provide entire degree programs online by compiling multiple micro-credentials. These degrees or microdegrees could be the future of education, as they provide highly personalized, self-paced learning experiences to any individual, regardless of their schedules and financial capabilities. The effectiveness and value of these micro-degrees can be enhanced by using real-time job market trends while creating curriculums.
Using a tool like Talismatic that analyzes job market trends can enable educators to identify high-demand skills in the job market. The identification then leads to the design of courses that will attract students from all across the country. Tools like Talismatic provide additional insights, such as the geographical distribution of skill demand, which can be used to recommend courses to individual students based on their location. As the job market gets more and more competitive, job market analytics will play a huge role in separating the best institutions from the average ones – regardless of whether they provide traditional degrees or micro-credentials.