From education to employment

Rethinking skills development

Chris Kirk, Products & Services Director at City & Guilds UK

Personally, I have always believed the success of an economy is based on the will and skill of individuals to be as productive as possible. The more productive we are, the more we can create, the higher quality it will be and the lower cost/price. This is what makes countries more competitive and compelling in a global economy.

The equation for success is simple. Skilled people and better technology boosts productivity and the economy.

However, according to research by PageGroup half of employees do not understand what productivity is, and are therefore unsure how to be more productive. This is worrying given the UK’s stagnant productivity. But this isn’t the only cause for concern:

  • Public funding, and therefore the majority of the education and training system, is focused on the very young, yet we are all likely to work for at least 40 years.
  • Due to projected future trends such as automation, artificial intelligence and globalisation the skills and job roles we need in 5 years, let alone 40, will be different to those now.
  • Employers aren’t informing individuals about the skills they need, which means education is on the back foot. As a result, people risk becoming complacent about their skills and productivity. The City & Guilds Group’s recent Skills Confidence report revealed that 92% of UK respondents are confident in their skills and productivity, and 55% think they are over-qualified for their current job.
  • Too much value is placed on academic qualifications as the key to job success, which contributes to widening skills gaps.
  • While our vocational qualification hasn’t changed significantly over the years, there has been constant tinkering over the past few decades which has destablised and devalued our system.

We need to build trust in the system to create more opportunities for motivated, skilled and productive individuals. That means employees actively taking control of their own learning, both within and outside the workplace. Alongside this, we should be looking to find new ways to define, develop, recognise and showcase individuals’ skills throughout their working lives. That way employers will be able to consistently recruit and retain the people they need to be productive.

Fortunately, as the workforce evolves – particularly through technology – it opens up new ways for individuals to learn and present new skills so that they can get into a job, progress on the job and move onto the next job.

The City & Guilds Group has been exploring the opportunities technology can open up for some time. In particular, we have been following the developments of digital credentials and the potential the open badges standard can have in enhancing life-long recognition of talent and achievements in a truly 21st century way. Earlier this year, we announced the investment into Credly, a US-based digital credentialing provider. Then, just last month, we brought leading digital credentialing organisations Digitalme and Makewavesinto the Group, to form a new business known simply as Digitalme. This new business will focus on designing credentials using open badges – building high-quality, relevant and trusted credentials.

Digital credentialing recognises and validates individuals’ competencies– including ‘soft skills’ and experiences that are, by their nature, harder to measure. And it’s available to everyone, regardless of their situation, so it enables more people to have their ongoing skills development both inside and outside of the workplace recognised. This can make a huge different to an individual’s life and career. Meanwhile for organisations, digital credentials make it easier for them to find the talented individuals with the specific skills their businesses need. Plus, they can issue their own high-quality credentials to recognise their employees’ successes.

Digital credentials have the potential to define and recognise the attributes needed for productivity by helping people develop their skills for personal and economic growth.

The current skills gap isn’t going away, and our productivity doesn’t seem to be getting any better either. So we must take steps to tackle this. Digital credentialing won’t be the only solution, but it can certainly make a big difference.

Chris Kirk, Products & Services Director at City & Guilds UK

For more information on open badges:

Digitalme have a great learning academy on the Open Badge Academy

Think Out Loud Club’s Open Badges 101 course developed by Bryan Mathers and Doug Belshaw with community input

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