The world is becoming more competitive and learning new skills is an important part of career advancement and the answer to closing the STEM skills gap. At the same time, learning new skills is so time-consuming that balancing them with other life commitments is challenging. Micro-credentials can be a useful tool to achieve your career goals while maintaining this balance.
As the world of work continues to evolve, upskilling and reskilling within STEM fields is becoming incredibly crucial. This is where micro-credentials come in. They offer a diverse selection of courses for almost any industry. Many employers even help workers looking to upskill through micro-credentials. By pursuing micro-credentials in your specific field, you can dedicate time to adding new skills to add to your resume without taking any time out of your career journey.
In this article, we will go over the benefits of micro-credentials and where you can get them. Discover how micro-credentials are an asset for both workers and organisations.
What are micro-credentials?
Micro-credentials are short courses you can take to gain new skills in your chosen field. They are typically quite short courses, lasting anywhere from 4-20 weeks. There is a wide range of subjects to study, from technology to business, to teaching and even culinary skills, to name a few. Whatever industry you work in, you can find micro-credentials within your field.
Micro-credentials, whether offered online or in classrooms, generally adhere to the following format:
- Independent learning through course materials, seminars, or lectures.
- Completing a set of assignments based on the material studied.
- A task or test designed to demonstrate the knowledge gained.
- A certificate or merit badge, awarded upon completion of the course
Could micro-credentials replace degrees?
Micro-credentials are not a replacement for traditional degrees or professional qualifications. They are, however, a great source of upskilling from within to promote and develop talent that already exists in the organisation. Micro-credentials can boost your skills and education even if you cannot dedicate time to a full-time course. They are useful even if you just want to increase your knowledge in a particular area.
The impact of micro-credentials on recruitment
These short and accessible courses are having an impact on all elements of recruitment, as they help to bridge the skills gap and open up opportunities for a wider range of people.
1. The modern work environment keeps getting more competitive
These days, employers are looking for the extra value you can add to their organisation. You can showcase these extra skills by sharing your micro-credentials. They provide a boost to your professional profile and can lead to faster career progression and achieving higher salaries.
With the skills learned through these easily accessible courses, you can apply for senior roles in an organisation by demonstrating knowledge of specific niche topics, especially if they are STEM skills.
You might even qualify for work in different departments or switch to a new job profile. This offers a great opportunity for diversification of technical abilities, which is a big advantage in today’s technology-driven job market.
2. The growing need to upskill and reskill to stay on top
A recent study revealed 36% of organisations currently focus on upskilling from within and 59% plan to do so in the next 12 months. Organisations are having a hard time finding people with the right set of skills and talents for positions in their companies. With the ever-growing skills gap in STEM, it is a necessity that there are avenues for people to upskill and reskill into STEM roles.
Investing large sums in training employees carries risk. The return on investment needs to be high with a long-term commitment from the employee. Investing in micro-credentials is a cost-effective way for companies to keep their employees trained with the necessary skills.
Companies want employees to feel connected and supported at all times. To this end, many invest in robust technological frameworks and a hosted VoIP solution to ensure connectivity. Organisations can help provide micro-credentials for the most in-demand skills in the department. These could be skills in cybersecurity, cloud computing, or Machine Learning to name but a few.
Combined, these investments will increase employee satisfaction and retention as it is an investment in their career paths. The world of science and technology changes rapidly, reskilling via micro-credentials can help employees stay up-to-date with current changes or, within STEM fields, get their foot in the door. This ensures that companies can retain and attract top talent in the organisation.
3. Recruiters and employers are starting to recognize skills rather than degrees
Micro-credentials are a great alternative learning method and offer a customizable opportunity to upskill and build core competencies. The skill gap is making employers realise that traditional degrees are not all that matters. Discovering talented people with the right skills is becoming more important.
As the courses are usually short-term and flexible, they make knowledge accessible to people who might struggle in a traditional learning environment. For example, people who have had a career break may feel out of touch with current knowledge in their field. However, they may not have the time to dedicate to a full-time college degree. Micro-credentials signal to employers that you have the desired mindset and skill sets to get the job done.
Organisations could also use mentoring software to guide employees through the process of studying for their micro-credentials and applying this knowledge to their roles. Skill gaps created by a lack of formal education can be filled in my mentoring and training schemes to build upon core skills.
4. Increases revenue source
Many universities, colleges, and even companies offer micro-credentials. This generates an extra source of income, as such courses are more accessible than traditional degrees. With more people choosing to upskill through micro-credentials and more employers recognizing their value, it is becoming an important alternate revenue stream for many organisations.
5. It’s proof of education and skill
Accredited organisations that offer micro-credentials usually have a review process to verify learning. This may be a test or demonstration at the completion of the course. The courses are often developed with industry consultation based on the skills they want in their employees. Through online facilities such as virtual assistants and cloud-based phone systems, learners can get quick feedback and help for most courses.
Thus, through demonstrable learning, micro-credentials are a strong signal of your abilities and supercharge your resume to achieve your career goals.
Micro credentials are great tools for targeted and needs-oriented training. On the one hand, they can support professionals in building up their reputation because it shows their owned skills to and competences for future jobs. And on the other hand they can be used to gain more soft skills (e.g. preparing for upcoming events or negotiation talks) by taking the appropriate courses. Both outcomes are significant arguments to help professionals position themselves well in the labour market. Dominic Mühlberger, Head of Learning DACH, SThree
Barriers and challenges to micro-credentials
1. The reluctance to change
As the field of micro-credentials is still relatively new compared to traditional forms of education, there are some challenges in accepting their value. Some organisations and jobs still require traditional degrees or don't acknowledge the value added through micro-credentials. Moreover, as often these courses are conducted online you have to think of the impact home working can have on your learning, when compared to a more traditional in-person setting.
2. The idea that micro-credentials are ‘add-ons’
Micro-credentials are sometimes viewed as a less formal and rigorous form of learning. As such, these courses are not yet considered a replacement for a formal degree but rather supplemental to it.
3. Micro-credentialing is a new arena with little research to back it up
As micro-credentials are a recent innovation, it is difficult to verify their benefits. There are no studies or reviews showing the direct value added of such courses.
But we do know that people want to expand and diversify their skill sets. Micro-credentials are an easy pathway to doing that. A recent study found that since the coronavirus pandemic, 42% of employees pursued independent training to improve their core competencies or acquire new skills.
Where do you get Micro-credentials
Micro-credentials are typically offered by the following institutions:
- Professional Organizations
Micro-credentials are available online as a simple course, a micro degree, or a nano degree. At the end of the course, you’ll receive a merit badge or certificate, or you can add the course to your professional profile under the additional skills you have learned.
The range of courses offered through micro-credentials is incredibly diverse. They can range from niche technical courses to broader management and leadership courses. There are advanced IT courses for AI and cloud computing. There are also entrepreneurial courses about the basics of setting up a business, teaching how to formulate short-term goals and set up telephone numbers for business.
Micro-credentials can be highly personalised. There is usually no specific time frame for completion, meaning that you can easily adjust your studies to your schedule.
You can pursue courses based on previous skills and experience. You can also gain skills in a new area due to the relatively low cost of the courses. Some educational institutes even offer micro-credentials that contribute as a credit towards a particular degree. All this makes micro-credentials a flexible learning tool that can fit into anyone’s lifestyle.
“When designed correctly, micro-credentials are flexible, portable, and cost-effective to implement. They can help boost employee engagement and support employers by promoting a culture of lifelong learning while providing a map for an employee’s career path.”- Kyle Shea, EVP of Partnership Development at All Campus, 2021
We have seen what micro-credentials are, who offers them, and their role in the educational sphere. As an emerging resource for further education and introduction to STEM reskilling, micro-credentials have huge benefits for both workers and employers, particularly as skills shortages continue to push-up salaries.
The diverse range of courses, flexible timetables, and verified learning outcomes offer unlimited potential to anyone on a journey of self-improvement and career advancement. You can continue in your job and at the same time gain new skills to advance in your career. Despite some resistance to accepting them as a legitimate educational resource, this field is growing rapidly and will prove a useful resource in bridging the skills gap faced by most companies.
About the author
Grace Lau - Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration using Dialpad's virtual contact centre software. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.
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