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How stackable micro-credentials will revolutionise the future of learning

By Olivia Blazevic | 18 August 2021


Continuing technological developments and industry shifts tell us that our world is rapidly changing. To handle these changes, Australia’s labour force must be more adaptable and diversely skilled than ever. 

The rate that industries are experiencing change, particularly in Australia’s current post-pandemic economy, has caused more workers to identify essential gaps in their skill set, such as: 
  • Digital literacy
  • Soft skills (e.g. creative thinking, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence)
  • Basic practical technology skills 
These skills are all critical foundation blocks for the future modern worker. Many current workers require up-to-date training for these skills to remain competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. 

Although it’s been recognised that upskilling promotes a resilient workforce, the traditional tertiary education systems can no longer keep up with learners’ and employers’ needs to access flexible, customisable and focused learning opportunities.

Cue micro-credentials — the education building blocks that respond more effectively to the specific needs of the current marketplace. 

But what are micro-credentials, and how can they help you stay ahead of the skills curve in Australia’s post-pandemic world?

What are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are short skills-focused qualifications that aim to help learners skill up in specific knowledge areas.

Micro-credentials can be either:
  • An accredited certification in the VET sector or,
  • An unaccredited qualification in a specific skill (e.g. XERO or MYOB certificate)
An increasingly popular way to undertake a micro-credential course is to enrol in a ‘subject bundle’. Subject bundles are stackable micro-credentials — a list of subjects (generally four or less) — that you choose to enrol in from a single RTO. These subjects are usually not a part of a nationally qualified program. Rather, they are short courses you choose to meet your specific training needs.

The benefits of stackable micro-credentials

engineer at work

There are numerous benefits to building your micro-credential portfolio, including:
 
  • Placing you ahead of the ever-develop skills curve
  • Helping you to adapt to industry shifts and changes 
  • Increasing your career relevancy as you become more skilled
  • Allowing you to develop individual interests and needs within (or outside) your current career
  • Smaller price tag and shorter time-commitment than a nationally recognised structured program or tertiary qualification
  • Increasingly recognised and valuable in the current marketplace

Micro-credentials are becoming more recognisable and important

Although micro-credentials are not nationally recognised (yet), they’re quickly becoming extremely valuable credentials in the job market. 

Why? 

Employers are finding it increasingly difficult to hire candidates with the exact skill set required for roles, especially due to the rapidly changing nature of technological and social structures. 

Micro-credentials provide current employees and job seekers opportunities to bridge these skills gaps with short, focused training courses. By completing relevant micro-credentials, you’re showing current or potential employers your willingness to learn and keep abreast of industry requirements as a result of these uncertain times.

In 2019 alone, over 2.6 million students enrolled in VET institutions via subject bundles, accounting for 62.7% of all enrolled students that year. These significant numbers have spurred the Australian Government to recognise the value of these micro-credentials, especially as the nation navigates post-pandemic economic recovery.

Micro-credentials and COVID-19: The future workforce

team collaboration concept

COVID-19 has catalysed numerous changes to social, economic and technological practices across most of Australia’s industries. These impactful changes have caused major shifts in business operations, physical workspaces, health and safety practices, people management and how technology plays a role in even the furthest related industries. 

Consequently, the demand for more skilled and adaptable workers has risen and risen quickly. 

To help navigate this demand and support economic recovery, short course qualifications (e.g. subject bundles) are being pushed to the forefront for current and future workers. During the height of the pandemic alone (January - September 2020), the Australian government job initiative caused a 171% jump in subject bundle enrolments from the year before.  

As a result, the Australian Government is starting to recognise the undeniable value of these stackable micro-credentials. The Council of Australian Government (COAG) Skills Council has successfully advocated for a Head of Agreement Skills Reform. This skills reform aims to develop and nationally fund accredited micro-credentials and training skillset packages so more students can develop stronger and more relevant foundational skills to thrive in and aid with our post-pandemic recovery. 

As the world continues to develop and grow at such rapid rates, learners need to be able to fuse both formal and informal training to make up an overall more adaptable and resilient workforce. 

That’s why stackable micro-credentials are the education pathway of the future. They encourage lifelong learning experiences that lead to well-directed skills development for future-forward employers and employees. 

Editor's note: This article was contributed and written by Training.com.au. They are Australia's largest education marketplace, assisting education providers in maximising their student enrolments by offering a range of services that help attract high-quality student enquiries.
 
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