COLLABORATION

This US non-profit is boosting minority employability with micro-credentials

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Education Design Lab is helping underserved students get employed.


By Emma Richards 

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We hear a lot about the skills gap these days. There are few industries left untouched by the inability to hire graduates with the level of employability companies are looking for and who possess the right skills for today’s ever-shifting workplace. And the gulf between colleges and employer expectations is not getting any smaller.

2018 report from Accenture found the United States stands to lose US$975 billion in GDP growth over the next 10 years if they fail to adapt to meet the needs of the new job market. Studies have also shown that 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.

Things are changing fast and in this environment, it’s not necessarily the hard skills that are going to serve students best in the job market. Instead, the rise of soft skills and versatility are what raise a graduate’s employability and make them able to keep up with the shifting nature of things.

Boosting employability

But these skills are very hard to detect from reading a simple resume. Many employers are turning down candidates who may have been a great fit for a position as it is not clear from their qualifications that they have the flexibility to be successful in the workplace.

Non-profit Education Design Lab (EDL) has spent years working to change that, building a programme of micro-credentials, or “badges”, that students can acquire through digital learning courses. These clearly signify to employers that the candidate has the skills for a career.

After the success of their initiative, Tee Up the Skills, EDL is going a step further and earlier this month launched a new two-year initiative to explore the value of these micro-credentials in the hiring process.

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The BadgedToHire scheme will take a particular focus on underserved learners and the value these credentials bring to their employment prospects.

The Lab will work with The University of MaineSan Jose State UniversityCentral New Mexico Community College and employer partners to implement the badge programmes for historically underrepresented learners and “study the awareness and acceptance of digital credentials as a signal for 21st-century skills.”

The three colleges involved have already implemented the micro-credential programme through the EDL and hope to confirm through this new initiative that they assist their students in gaining employment after graduation.

Reaching underserved students

According to EDL, they have been selected specifically for their ability to “reach a critical mass of historically underserved learner populations, including a significant number of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, active duty military, veterans and rurally based students.”

“Today’s employers are desperate for applicants with the right combination of technical and mobility skills. In most cases, it’s not that employers don’t have enough applicants. More often, they lack a clear signal of hard-to-measure skills that lead to long-term employee retention and success,” Founder and President of EDL Kathleen de Laski said in a statement.

“This work is about creating a two-way dialogue that empowers students to display these hard-earned skills in a format that’s easily recognisable to employers.”