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Credentials and the Lifelong Learning Cycle

By: Brenda Perea, Director of Education and Workforce Strategies, Credly

Go to high school. Go to college and get a degree. Use the skills you learned in college to enter the industry of your choice and start a successful, long-term career.

For decades, this traditional education-to-employment paradigm provided a path to success for both employers and employees. However, this pathway to employment no longer reflects reality for many working adults. Fewer and fewer people have four years of time—and even less have the money—to dedicate to learning simultaneously while new skills are emerging and old skills are becoming obsolete. A growing number of learners are pursuing multiple sources of education and training, such as coding bootcamps, to build their workforce pathway.

Labor force participation and ongoing education are increasingly intermingled, with employees either stepping out of the workforce to learn new skills or obtaining academic credit for skills and competencies gained outside the classroom. As a result, education and employment are more frequently one and the same. New knowledge and skills are continuously acquired in a lifelong cycle of learning and improvement. I’ve seen first-hand the impact that digital credentials, with full context, can have on the hiring cycle.

As the Instructional Design Project Manager for Special Project Grants at Colorado Community College System, I led a system-wide effort to engage employers and employment experts to build a more effective pathway from college to career. One of our challenges was how to make the skills and abilities our students gained during their course of study more visible for employers, thus creating a better fit between student performance and employer needs.

We discovered that we could recognize in-demand skills in ways apparent to employers by redesigning existing course content and delivery. We then mapped employer-specific skills with digital credentials, where they were demonstrated and assessed within our programs. These digital credentials allowed faculty and institutions to recognize technical skills like advanced AutoCad, Machining, 3D Printing; crucial soft skills like critical thinking; and job-relevant experiences such as project leadership.

In Colorado, our use of digital credentials helped to unlock opportunity for both workers and employers. In one case, a Denver-based architectural firm used digital credentials to fill three open positions that had been open for six months. The employer gained skilled workers, and individuals had a chance to break into a lucrative industry.

By establishing a shared language between education institutions and employers, students can more easily get academic credit for their professional learning, and professionals can share their academic accomplishments in a way that employers can understand. This idea of a shared language is so powerful and exactly why Credly is invested in furthering transparency in the credentialing marketplace by enabling colleges, universities, businesses, and professional and trade associations to publish credentials through its digital credential platform in a common language called Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL).  Organizations issuing credentials through Credly will be able to provide greater transparency for those accessing their credentials by sharing an enhanced set of data when publishing using the CTDL format or choosing to make their digital credentials discoverable through the initial Credential Registry.

At Credly, we believe in the importance of digital credentials that translate skills into a common language that all can understand, trust, and verify. The adoption of CTDL facilitates unprecedented discoverability of workforce-relevant certifications, badges, and other verified achievements that emerge from learning, training, and workforce activities.By sharing these in a consistent way, we can create a win-win opportunity for both employers and would-be employees.

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Credly is a participant in our application blog series. To catch up, check our last blog from NOCTI. Stay tuned for our next piece from LRNG.