Custom Microcredentials for a Common Problem

Ali Flewell

January 21, 2022

Microcredentials have become a hot topic through the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for solutions to the on-going talent challenges, across the labour market, have been a much talked about issue. Microcredentials can provide multiple solutions to address the skills gap which is one of the most commonly acknowledged problems. They also enable organizations with the means to rapidly reskill and upskill existing talent to support employee retention. Ontario Tech Talent Inc., otherwise known as TALENT™, has a catalog of microcredentials that deliver high-demand skills in a variety of different formats, but our latest microcredential, developed in collaboration with project management leader, PTAG, will go down in TALENT™ history as our first custom microcredential. Could this be the solution the labour market is searching for to address the skills gap?

Microcredential Formats

Aging populations, high economic growth, and demographic trends have plagued the labour market and have made skilled talent hard to find, and professionals in project management are no exception. In 2021, 48% of leaders in project management who responded to a PMI survey said that learning and development was a high priority issue for their organization (Pulse of the Profession 2021 (2021)). With workforce planning, talent acquisition and talent retention scoring closely in importance.

Now add industry specific project management experience, and candidates quickly go from few to virtually none. “Many project deadlines had to be pushed due to the lack of effective staffing plans in almost all areas. Without a steady flow of talent entering into the project management field, it may be a long term problem if we don’t improve our resource management processes,” said Marzieh Pakdel, Project Section Manager at PTAG and Lead Facilitator for the Energy Project Management Fundamentals (EPMF) microcredential. PTAG, in partnership with TALENT™, proceeded to develop a comprehensive six week online microcredential that covers twelve topic areas in project management, with a specific focus on the energy sector for producers and distributors. A blend of synchronous and asynchronous activities allows learners to engage in live discussions with industry experts, while honing their skills with project tools and software. A pillar of success to PTAG-TALENT™’s microcredential has been the rapid co-design process to improve learner outcomes achieved in a few short months.
The first beta group of learners completed their microcredential after six weeks with 100% having their competency in energy project management successfully verified. Pakdel remarked, “I was impressed with the diversity of learners, from current University students to working professionals already in the energy sector – all looking to expand their knowledge in project management for their next career moves.” While the course itself was considered a success, our learners eagerly shared a large amount of invaluable feedback with us, which will enable continuous improvement. Learner surveys were distributed at both the beginning and end of the course to collect feedback, and measure the impact the course had on their job readiness in project management. A positive key takeaway from the survey was that the majority of respondents indicated that they emerged from the course with new knowledge with an average answer of 4.5 out of 5. TALENT™ also received actionable feedback related to increasing in-class (and office hour) participation as well as time-allocation for quizzes. TALENT™ and the content contributors at PTAG got to work immediately to revise delivery techniques and implement improved facilitation practices to enhance learner experience for the next group of learners set to start shortly.
The success of our first custom and industry specific microcredential has been validated by the infusion of new candidates entering the talent pipeline. Pakdel said, “I am very optimistic about our learners entering into the project management profession. Learners were excited to have an opportunity to learn about the energy sector and learn new skills to help them in their future job search.” And this is just the beginning for TALENT™’s custom microcredential strategy; we are already developing additional custom microcredentials in the energy, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing sectors.
Arriving in the Spring of 2022, are a suite of mental health microcredentials for nursing professionals and other front-line healthcare workers. The pandemic has only served to increase the talent shortages in our healthcare system, and the skills gap for qualified mental healthcare workers has widened. With the introduction of our microcredentials with expert mental health organization, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, we are proud to be partnering to develop a thriving talent pipeline for this critical sector.

The talent shortage is an ongoing issue for most sectors in Canada. Coupled with rapidly shifting technological advances and mass resignations, the time is now to start exploring all solutions. Microcredentials serve as a highly viable solution for employers wanting to reskill their existing workforce and/or upskill those looking to enter the workforce. Off-the-shelf microcredentialing options are not always suitable for a specialized skill or specific sector, and TALENT™ has accepted this challenge and made it our mission to provide custom options to sectors experiencing talent shortages. It’s time to increase the ‘trickle’ of talent entering the pipeline to a ‘flood’ and microcredentials are a key tool in achieving this. 

The talent shortage is an ongoing issue for most sectors in Canada. Coupled with rapidly shifting technological advances and mass resignations, the time is now to start exploring all solutions. Microcredentials serve as a highly viable solution for employers wanting to reskill their existing workforce and/or upskill those looking to enter the workforce. Off-the-shelf microcredentialing options are not always suitable for a specialized skill or specific sector, and TALENT™ has accepted this challenge and made it our mission to provide custom options to sectors experiencing talent shortages. It’s time to increase the ‘trickle’ of talent entering the pipeline to a ‘flood’ and microcredentials are a key tool in achieving this. 

Interested in creating a custom microcredential or offering your workforce opportunities for skills development? Reach out to us at info@ontariotechtalent.ca.

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