Well it certainly wasn’t Miss Scarlet nor Colonel Mustard, although the obvious choice for this game of Clue may have been Professor Plum but even that isn’t correct. In the case of ‘Who is driving the demand for alternative credentials?’ it’s actually the workforce who dunnit!
As Ontario grapples with how to accelerate COVID recovery, which in itself is an acceleration of the digital transformation of organizations in the province that was already underway, top of mind for Ontarians is either
- how do I get back to work; or
- how do I remain meaningfully employed?
For many Ontarians this means reskill or improving their existing skills to meet changing employer needs.
For those unfamiliar with this language, reskilling means the development of a new skill. At Ontario Tech Talent, or TALENT as we have become known, our focus is on reskilling Ontario’s workforce. Working with employers in energy, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing we are ensuring they are able to hire the talent with the skills they need or are able to reskill their existing workforce in response to or anticipation of changing business needs.
But why alternative credentials or microcredentials, as some are more commonly known?
First, let’s talk about what they are. According to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), “A microcredential is a representation of learning, awarded for completion of a short program that is focused on a discrete set of competencies (i.e., skills, knowledge, attributes), and is sometimes related to other credentials.”
An example would be TALENT’s microcredential in Data Analytics and Visualization developed in collaboration with Tableau, one of the world’s largest data visualization software companies. Our learners go from zero to data analytics hero in just six weeks and can then go on to develop their analytics skills further through a readily available upskilling pathway of other alternative credentials.
So, back to the question at hand. Why alternative credentials? There are two key reasons why Ontarians are turning to them rather than going back to school to undertake a more traditional academic credential such as a Graduate Certificate.
- Employer-endorsed – alternative credentials, such as those available at TALENT, are developed directly with employers to address their current and anticipated skills gaps. This is important to Ontarians as it provides greater certainty that the investment of their time and money will actually impact their job readiness, their ability to get back to work or to remain meaningfully employed.
- Speed – It’s rare Ontarian who can afford to take a year or more out of work to reskill. They are therefore looking for ways to rapidly develop high demand skills without having to take a break from their current job or to enable them to get back to work as quickly as possible. Alternative credentials, particularly microcredentials are designed to do exactly this.
For example, TALENT is currently working with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences to develop a portfolio of microcredentials in Mental Health Nursing in response to the ever increasing demand for these skills in Ontario’s nursing workforce. Our goal is to enable a registered nurse to be able to develop sufficient competency in skills related to a specialty such as geriatric or adolescent mental health in just six weeks so that they can be redeployed to address the growing number of vacancies in these areas.
Alternative credentials are therefore a means to enable healthcare employers to secure the talent they need but most importantly ensure nurses are able to remain meaningfully employed without having to take a pause in their career. We might therefore conclude that in the case of this who dunnit it’s a ‘two person job’ after all …