Bite-sized certifications provide accessible up-skilling to Australian workers and lower risk for employers.
Australia has been in the throes of a skills shortage for some time now. The pandemic exacerbated it: lockdowns altered the skills in demand by accelerating our need for automation and digital infrastructures to support those working from home, and our closed borders made it impossible to receive new skilled workers in areas of need from overseas. Our Skills Priority List for 2021 defines over a hundred and fifty occupations in which we have present shortages.
But for current workers, expanding skills can be challenging. The cost of further education is high whether it’s measured in money or time, and regardless of whether it’s borne by a business or an individual.
Increasingly, microcredentials seem to be the answer. These are super-short courses, usually undertaken with a specific purpose in mind. Deakin University’s Emeritus Professor Beverley Oliver defines this kind of course for us: “A certification of assessed learning that is additional, alternate, complementary to or a formal component of a formal qualification.”
The Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework cited that 36 of 42 universities were engaged with microcredentials, and the UAC announced in July this year that it won an Australian government grant to build Australia’s first ever marketplace for microcredentials.
So, why microcredentials?
1. They are accessible: Microcredentials serve up effective skills expansions for workers in manageable, bite-sized pieces. They don’t require dedicated long-term commitment in the same way, for example, a graduate certificate might.
2. They’re easier for higher education institutions to manage: The smaller units are more convenient to manage and can be more rapidly tweaked, updated, scheduled and resourced by providers.
3. They represent a lower-risk option for employers: Jobs can vanish from one area of a business while a sudden need for skills opens up in another, but an investment in employee education can be costly and risky if that worker chooses to leave the business. Microcredentials are a smaller and shorter investment in expanding skills.
For many, microcredentials now represent the intersection of convenience, accessibility and value in a landscape where our demand for skills changes with each new innovation. It will be interesting to see where these new developments in Australian education may lead us.
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