Ultimate Guide to Micro-Credentials [2021]


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August 4, 2021 –

Micro-credentials are a relatively new concept in higher education and have increasingly become more mainstream over the past several years. They are different than traditional degrees and can be obtained from many sources, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), community colleges, universities, or even high school classes. What makes micro-credentials so attractive is that they allow individuals to earn credentials for skills they already have or to learn skills that will make them more marketable in their industry.  

In this blog post we will cover everything you need to know about micro-credentials as a hiring manager: what they are, how to use them during the selection process, and steps you can take to verify they’re legitimate.  

What are Micro-Credentials?  

Micro-credentials, which are also sometimes referred to as nanodegrees, are short programs offered by education institutions that provide training and knowledge in highly specific subject areas. In general, these programs are quick to complete, competency-based, affordable, and in many cases can be “stacked” or progressively taken to enhance learning and earn a larger educational qualification, such as a certificate.  

Depending on the program, micro-credentials can take as a little as a few hours to complete, or up to several months. Many micro-credentials are offered online or in-person by various education institutions, from high schools to ivy league universities.  

Micro-credentials are not unique to any one industry. In fact, many industries have adopted micro-credentials to bridge the gap between skills and industry best practices, allowing job seekers and employees to upskill or re-skill to make themselves more successful in their field or help them stand out to prospective employers. You can find professional development programs and mini courses for numerous industries such as technology, healthcare, education, and skilled trades, among others.  

Many institutions, who offer micro-credentials, provide their students with a digital badge upon completion, which they can prominently display on their resume or LinkedIn profile.  

Benefits of Micro-Credentials for Employers  

According to a survey of Canadian employers recently conducted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, 60% of respondents reported that micro-credentials would increase their confidence in a candidate’s skills. This was especially true if the micro-credential was directly related to the job, competency-based, and accredited.  

Micro-credentials provide hiring managers with an easy way to identify candidates who have mastered the skills necessary for success in their field. Each micro-credential certifies the knowledge and expertise of a candidate in a specific subject. For example, when hiring for an administrative role, a candidate with recent micro-credentials in Business Communication and Administrative Technology comes with the reassurance that the candidate is qualified academically to perform administrative tasks and is well suited for an office administration environment.  

Micro-credentials are a great way for employees to learn new skills and stay up to date with industry standards and trends, without committing to full diploma or degree programs. This encourages adults who are in the workforce full-time to continue their education without a substantial time commitment.  

With Micro-credentials, employees are able to maintain a full-time position while attending an educational institution part time. Employers benefit from a more qualified pool of candidates with recent and relevant knowledge surrounding a particular subject. It also allows employees or job seekers to transition their careers to other areas of expertise without pursuing an entirely separate post-secondary degree. An example of a Micro Credential includes the Essentials of Natural Resource & Environmental Protection Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Check out the Micro-Credentials that BCIT offers to see what other types of programs are available.  

Additionally, some provinces have identified micro-credentials as a strategy to help with economic recovery from the pandemic. For example, earlier this year, BC announced an initiative to introduce 24 micro-credentials to help workers gain new skills to get back to work. The micro-credentials are being offered through 15 public post-secondary institutions and are focused on high-demand sectors.  

Can Micro-Credentials be Verified?  

Education verifications are a common hiring practice and come highly recommended for any positions that require specific training or education. But what about micro-credentials? Can they be verified? The answer depends on the type of micro-credential and where it was obtained.  

There are a variety of micro-credentials available to job seekers; however, only those issued by recognized institutions should be treated as verifiable data from a candidate’s resume. Even though micro-credentials made their debut nearly a decade ago, only in the past few years has it become more mainstream for accredited institutions to offer such options.  

Due to the nature of micro-credentials, it may not always be possible to verify their validity. Many micro-credentials are earned via online, open learning style platforms that do not have a traditional student records department to manage transcripts and verify program completion for employers.  

As more accredited institutions expand their programs to offer micro-credentials, employers will be better equipped to verify the education claims of their candidates.  

Why Verify Micro-Credentials?  

Micro-credentials provide valuable insight into a candidate’s specific skill set and understanding of a subject. This information can be vital in the selection process and should therefore be verified, whenever possible.  

Similar to any other degree or diploma, if it is relevant to the position, a micro-credential should be verified to ensure that the candidate is truly as qualified and educated as they claim to be. This is particularly important for rapidly growing industries where continuing education is paramount to employee success.  

Summary  

Micro-credentials are growing in popularity and for good reason. They bridge the skills gap, allowing job seekers to upskill quickly and affordably, while enabling employers to hire more educated candidates with recent, relevant education. Employers have shown an increased interest in micro-credentialing as well because it demonstrates that the candidate has taken initiative to pursue knowledge outside of their formal schooling. However, with micro-credentials being offered through a variety of platforms, this can cause confusion when attempting to verify micro-credentials. While these complexities exist, it is important for hiring managers to continue to verify education, including micro-credentials, for positions that require formal education or training.  

For help navigating micro-credentials and how to verify these types of qualifications, contact us! We would love to help provide guidance or verification services for your organization to ensure you’re hiring the most qualified candidates possible.  

To learn more about Background Screening providers and how to decide the best fit for your company, check out our 6 Tips for Selecting a Background Screening Provider.

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