5 ways digital credentials bridge the gap between higher education and employment

    As labor market needs develop with new job roles, how can digital credentials help ensure your students are prepared for a future of work with relevant skills?
    calendar-plus-01 March 27, 2023
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    hourglass-01 6 min read
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    Students today are demanding greater clarity in the value they can expect from an investment in higher education, whether that’s a full-time degree or non-degree courses. And that value is measured in employability and the potential opportunities following the completion of their studies.

    Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum said the global digital skills shortage could mean 85 million jobs are unfilled by 2030. Therefore, higher education institutions and community colleges are under increasing pressure to keep up with the training and technologies required for the future global workforce and prove the link between their courses, curriculum, and relevance in the job market.

    If it's hard to evidence the skills students obtain from degree courses that can be applied within the workplace it’s even more challenging when it comes to shorter and non-degree courses. In December 2021, The Hechinger Report published an article entitled  “Credential chaos: Growing “maze” of education credentials is confusing consumers and employers”.  

    It highlighted that nearly one million unique education credentials are currently in the market, half of which are for non-degree programs such as industry certificates, badges and more. Students and employers alike are tripping over the legitimacy of these alternative credentials, and struggle to accept the certification at face value.

    In fact, Harper College, found that employers didn’t understand the depth of training and resulting outcomes driven by its non-degree programs. To solve the problem, it implemented a digital badging program with the Acclaim platform.

    By using digital badges to represent classroom and extracurricular learning outcomes, graduating students connected their college experience to employer needs. Their badges create opportunities for Harper College students by making it easy for employers to recognize and value their capabilities instantly.

    Digital credentials proved key in bridging the gap between academic learning and employment.

    What are digital credentials?

    Digital credentials are the currency of the emerging workforce, bringing a common language to knowledge, skills, and abilities regardless of whether they were learned on the job or in the classroom. Delivered as a digital badge or certificate after completion of a learning course, these digital credentials give students flexible ways to learn marketable skills that will help them land a job and succeed once hired.

    More than a line on a resume, digital credentials provide verifiable proof of a certain level of proficiency in a specific skill. These could be hard or soft skills. Either way, a learning program that allows students to learn marketable skills that prepare them for employment is a must-have for any institution of higher education that is trying to attract new students.

    Here are five reasons why higher education institutions should utilize digital credentials to help students better bridge the gap between education and employment:

    1. Digital credentials tell the full story

    Research from the Association of American Colleges & Universities indicates that, when evaluating potential employees, only 45% find traditional college transcripts useful, while 80% found e-portfolios to be helpful. A similar trend was also conducted in a survey by Monster.co.uk and YouGov. More than half of UK HR professionals admit that a candidate's online reputation can influence their decision to hire them, highlighting a shift from depending solely on traditional qualifications in recruitment.

    That’s where digital credentials come in. They tell the full story of an individual beyond what fits on a resume or transcript. With Acclaim, the leading digital credentialing platform, learners can curate a robust professional profile that tells the complete story of their skills and achievements, whether earned from educational institutions, through on the job training, or even from professional associations.

    1. Validation of skills and competencies

    Digital credentials can be used to validate students' achievements in a more tangible and shareable way, providing proof that they have mastered a skill or capability. With metadata mapping on Acclaim's platform, it connects the credential with what the earners can do after earning it. It also lists the requirements to earn it and why employers should care. These all signpost accomplishments to peers, advisors, colleagues, and prospective employers. Students can also showcase their digital credentials on social media, job applications, and other platforms, helping them to stand out from the crowd.

    1. Support the shift to skills-based hiring

    Many organizations are switching to a skills-based hiring strategy, and badges —sharable assets loaded with useful metadata —can give recruiters and employers visibility into the skills students have developed through certification. Digital credentials help employers make more informed hiring decisions, providing insight into a prospective employee’s specific skills to do a job. It also provides students with an advantage during the recruitment process, showing that they have the skills that have been proven to succeed in the open position.

    1. Digital credentials strengthen employer-academic partnerships

    Employers are partnering with education institutions to support the demand for new skills and build talent pipelines. Digital credentials enable these employer education programs to recognize learners’ achievements in a verifiable, stackable, and engaging way.

    Higher Education institutions are also tailoring their curriculum to meet the needs of the communities they serve. For example, Madison College curated a beer brewing course when local breweries couldn’t find the right talent to fill jobs.

    According to Coursera, most students now rank job opportunities as their top criteria in choosing a postsecondary path, and ranking a close second is the ability to develop real-world skills and increase earning potential. More specifically, students are 75% more likely to enroll in academic programs that include professional certificates.

    As students continue making enrollment decisions based on job and career prospects, colleges and universities need to offer opportunities to gain real-world skills and show their newly obtained proficiency through micro-credentialing.

    1. Offer micro-credentials

    Institutions can offer micro-credentials that acknowledge specific skills or competencies. These credentials can be earned through coursework, projects, or other learning experiences. Micro-credentials immediately recognize skills and competencies students have mastered and offer leverage to find part-time employment, internships, and work-study programs that propel their learning and career pathways.

    Curious to learn more?

    Digital credentials not only prepare students for their future careers, but also bring a range of benefits to different stakeholders within higher education institutions. To learn more, download our latest white paper, 'Boost Higher Education student engagement with digital credentials'.

    You can also see our product in action by scheduling a demo today.

    Download the Whitepaper

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