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Report Finds Microcredentials Poorly Understood or Utilized by American Workers But Critical for Professional Development

A new research report, "Enabling Learning for Life: New Realities for Work and Education," by global technology company D2L, suggests that while American workers are interested in upskilling in their careers, they have little understanding of the value of microcredentials and how to go about obtaining them.

The study draws on reports published over the last five years, the company said. It particularly asks questions about how higher education can play a significant role in helping workers upskill to meet the demands of the "paradigm shift" toward emerging jobs based heavily on new technology, including AI.

The survey was conducted in December 2022 of 1,000 adults aged 18 to 65 in the United States and Canada, and shows responses by age group and gender. Fifteen executive-level leaders at higher education institutions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands were also surveyed.

The report identifies four key findings:

  1. Continuous upskilling is not yet the norm: Only 35% of U.S. workers had taken any professional education or training during the year, but 80% were interested in doing so.
  2. There is no clear preference for training providers: Twenty percent would prefer certificates from online courses with a non-university provider, while 14% prefer college or university courses.
  3. Microcredentials are not widely understood: Higher paid workers ($100,000+) do understand them, but while 38% of others said they were familiar with them, 30% said they could not identify what they are.
  4. Financial assistance and learning about credentials are the most requested help: Fifty-eight percent would prefer an online source to compare micro-credential courses, and 56% would enroll if given financial help.

Based on the responses, the D2L report offers several general recommendations, with ideas about how to implement them:

  • Colleges and universities must invest in continuing education focusing on upskilling.
  • Employers must invest in skills development for their workers.
  • Governments must pass policies to support financial aid and encourage business partnerships to provide training.

"Despite the increasingly rapid pace of technological change and the emergence of new models of learning, we believe higher education institutions are still highly relevant players in preparing working learners for the jobs of tomorrow offering structured programs of study, access to networks and resources, and credibility and recognition among employers that still hold weight," the report concludes. "Looking to the future, they recognize that the 'traditional' learner enrolling in higher education, conventionally 18 to 21 years old with a high school diploma, is no longer the main student."

Visit this link to download the full report.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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