Microcredentials help make careers and businesses move
In recent years, a new type of post-secondary has emerged—the microcredential. These accredited, short training programs tend to be focused on industry needs and specific skill development. Designed with the “work of the future” in mind, microcredentials can be an excellent way to move “up” or “over” on a career path without the time commitment of a more traditional post-secondary education diploma or degree. Both employees and employers are now learning how microcredentials can make the labour force more agile, skilled and flexible.
A growing idea
The idea of microcredentials is quickly gaining popularity, and the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened its growth even more. According to a 2021 study by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO)—Making Sense of Microcredentials—51 per cent of the post-secondary institutions surveyed in Canada were already offering microcredentials and 83 per cent had leadership encouraging their development. Plus, 62 per cent said the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated the need for microcredential programming.
However, a gap remains where it comes to learners and their knowledge about microcredentials. Seventy-five per cent of the working-age adults surveyed were not familiar with microcredentials, and neither were 59 per cent of employers surveyed. Even with that gap in knowledge, post-secondary institutions see that microcredential programs are a way to attract new students and build relationships with industry, and the trend has arrived in Manitoba.
“We believe microcredentials are the future of lifelong learning in Manitoba,”
– Fred Meier, president and CEO at RRC Polytech
Manitoba, meet the microcredential
Manitoba post-secondary institutions have started offering microcredentials in a variety of fields, with some getting their start due to the pandemic. Assiniboine Community College leapt into the microcredential pool in January 2020, just weeks before the pandemic would reach the province. Eight new programs were launched, including design publishing, woodworking, and essential skills for emerging leaders—all were created to help people build onto their existing skill sets.
In September 2020, Red River College Polytechnic (RRC Polytech) launched its first set of microcredentials in partnership with Learning Resources Network (LERN). The programming began with courses in data analysis, non-profit administration, productivity and time management, presentation media, and podcasting.
In December 2020, the Government of Manitoba partnered with RRC Polytech to launch a microcredentials for COVID-19 rapid testing. “The microcredentials Red River College has created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic generate more opportunities for professionals with the necessary experience to leverage their existing training, while updating and enhancing their skills to align with current provincial health-care demands. Our top priority is delivering the skills and training that our workforce needs now, and we believe microcredentials are the future of lifelong learning in Manitoba,” said Fred Meier, president and CEO at RRC Polytech at the program announcement.
Since then, the microcredential offerings have increased dramatically at RRC Polytech, with new courses in Indigenous community consultation and engagement, energy, health sciences, leadership, management, technology and social innovation. Microcredentials have also led to industry training, including a partnership with SkipTheDishes to help train the company’s rapidly growing team.
The University of Manitoba’s Extended Education department announced in August 2021 that it would be offering microcredentials soon, noting the emergence of the programs in post-secondary education and how they can help address the skills gap.
Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT) also offers industry the opportunity to create microcredentials that directly address business needs. Industry can directly work with MITT to develop a program and required curriculum for the microcredential and once approved, MITT can deliver the program on campus or on location as required.
As the province emerges from the pandemic—while dealing with the ongoing disruption that technology is creating across industries and a tight labour market—microcredentials are a tool to be explored by both employers and employees. These short courses and programs offer a way to further existing skillsets or create new ones that can both advance careers and business needs.