From education to employment

Digital Credentials: Rethinking the currency of qualifications #FutureofEducation

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, Managing Director at City & Guilds Group

The future of qualifications is changing, it’s been changing now actually for some time.

I think what’s really changing is the need to rethink the currency of what we mean by qualification.

It’s not that the qualification itself aren’t going to be relevant, it’s just that how we think about them, how we build them, how we construct them, how we verify them, probably needs to be different beyond that which we’re used to, which is a kind of single output, outcome at the end, stuck on the wall in the name of a certificate.

That isn’t to say that people still shouldn’t have something that really validates the achievement of whatever it is they’ve studied and learned, but I think it will be a very different currency.

That currency for me will be digital credentials.

Structuring qualifications to match the learners’ needs to be modular and go through different specialisms, as well as the employers’ needs to be able to fill specific skills gaps.

The reason I think we need this change in the sort of structure of a qualification, or the currency of it and how it’s measured is, I think we have to accept, because of the fast pace of change, because of the shelf life of skills.

There’s now some research out from Deloitte that suggests that technical skills might be outdated in as little as two and a half years.

There’s then a whole overlay now of what we’re now starting to be heard called “The Human Skill”, which you might once have called employability, or soft skills even.

This need to have a whole range of other skills that employers are almost crying out for, really beyond that of the technical skill. So the opportunity to create a more modularised structure, that allows learners employees to take a step by step through.

Almost you would equate it to units of qualification. We’re talking right down micro credentials, where you can really credentialise a specific skill, as well as then taking it up to the specific occupational layer.

The fact that you can actually stack these credentials, and they become portable, then you can publish them through online, through your LinkedIn. I just think it puts a very different dynamic into how the learner owns their experience, but at the same time the employers and the education system can still influence very much how those credentials are built and stacked.

The future for new learners coming into Further Education, level 2, or pre-apprenticeship level, but also lifelong learners, career changers, career progressors

I think we’ve finally switched back on to the fact that we need a lifelong learning culture in this country. We need to rethink the entitlement of education, in many respects.

We need to look at the transition period from 16 to 24, and then what happens beyond that, so that somebody has a lifelong entitlement to lifelong learning in some shape or form. That isn’t to say that means that the state is going to pay for it all.

Lifelong learning for lifelong employability

That needs to be a tripartite agreement, almost, between:

  1. What the individual might pay for as they continue to progress through their career, and they themselves choose that they want to do continual professional development,
  2. Versus that which the employer may pay for, because it’s the right thing to do, or its particular training they need their employee to reskill in,
  3. Versus something the state wants to invest in, because we know that we’ve actually got a need to invest in that skill now, in order to make us the most productive we can be down the line.

I think we’ve got to get back to having a very constructive dialogue about the positive aspect that lifelong learning for lifelong employability could really, really bring us.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, Managing Director at City & Guilds Group

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