May might be graduation season, but learning doesn’t have to end once students cross the stage.
Graduates nowadays understand that graduation isn’t the end of skills building. Ask any professional, and they’ll tell you it’s really just the beginning. Today, college is the groundwork for more niched training — training that is focused, scalable and fine-tuned to the situations you’ll experience in your professional life.
Luckily, the next credential college grads need is much less of a commitment than a degree. To close the skills gap, smaller and more targeted job training is the focus — consumable content pursued in shorter periods is what adults will need throughout their lives. Welcome to the rise of the micro-credential.
Why the change? It’s a response to the shift in the job market overall. Feedback from business leaders and human resources executives across the country shows the skills gap continually emerging as a major obstacle for both businesses and employees. Professionals are changing jobs more frequently, company training budgets are low (or even non-existent) and career paths are increasingly non-linear. Add to this the fact that technology is advancing seemingly by the hour, and it becomes clear that a college degree alone is no longer the sole answer to success in the job market. Learning is lifelong.
A group of leading universities in the nation — Georgia Tech Professional Education, University of California-Los Angeles, UC-Davis, UC-Irvine, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin Extension — have just launched the University Learning Store. This is a respected and accessible venue to provide new and established employees the key to their professional success: micro-credentials on demand.
Here’s how to maximize your success with micro-credentials as you launch your careers:
- As a new college grad, focus on the power skills, also known as soft skills, early on in your career. Those universally-sought skills will increase your value across the job market. As you progress in your career, transition to the technical skills specific to your role.
- As an experienced professional, you can propel your career by recognizing a skills gap that’s holding you back and proactively shopping for the targeted credentials that can close that gap.
- Seek micro-credentials verified by business professionals to be sure the courses are job-relevant and valued in your workplace.
When it comes to creating a career trajectory, this May’s graduates, and those in years to come, will act more like conscious consumers, mixing and matching micro-credentials to build their resumes in a way that fits their career goals. Employees benefit by being more competitive in the job market, and employers benefit by hiring professionals who are ready to hit the ground running. Micro-credentials are a major win-win for all players in the professional world.
David Schejbal is the dean of the University of Wisconsin Extension system.