Microcredentials – a response of education to labour market needs

Are microcredentials an opportunity to change approaches to modern education? The role they can play in the face of changing labour market demands and ways of implementing new forms of skills validation were discussed by international experts gathered at the webinar “Bridging the gap – How countries are using microcredentials to reshape the workforce,” held on February 14, 2024 at the initiative of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Read on and you will learn:

  • How can microcredentials address the needs of learners and today’s labour market?
  • What are the benefits of using microcredentials in education and training?
  • What are the challenges of incorporating microcredentials into the changing field of education?

During the webinar, OECD expert Shizuka Kato pointed out why microcredentials can address the needs of learners and today’s labour market. They validate smaller and more flexible education and training programmes. In addition, they are distinguished by:

  • being more labour market oriented,
  • allowing for flexible skill bundling and the design of individual development paths,
  • being accessible more often via the Internet,
  • being able to link the education sector with the labour market in a simpler way.

OECD has been taking a close look at the use and effects of implementing microcredentials in education and training in recent years. The organisation’s reports point to the potential benefits of doing so, such as:

  • providing access to skills development and retraining opportunities,
  • increasing employability,
  • making education more flexible and individualized,
  • increasing learner mobility,
  • enabling social inclusion,
  • increasing the well-being of citizens.

The research-based analyses show, on the one hand, evidence of the positive effects of implementing microcredentials. On the other hand, they reveal related challenges that need to be addressed within the framework of developed public policies and through the involvement of educational and research institutions as well as employers, among others.

– comments Wojciech Gola, key expert on the design of digital solutions for skills development in the project “Microcredentials – piloting a new solution to support lifelong learning”.

Microcredentials – how do they meet the needs of learners and the labour market?

Data from various countries (OECD, 2023) show that people who earn credentials for participating in short educational programmes have a better chance of obtaining employment in the labour market and can expect to earn higher wages. In doing so, it is worth noting that, in addition to participation in the programmes themselves, the following are important:

  • the quality of the offer (e.g., the volume of the course, trust in the educational institution offering the programme),
  • relevance to current labour market needs.

Microcredentials can support learners in starting or returning to college. Participation in short, certified programmes can encourage people to take advantage of the university’s offerings without making a long-term commitment of several years of study.

This allows the learner to gain a recognizable and accepted validation of skills and to verify whether they want to continue to develop in a particular educational field.

– explains Wojciech Gola.

The use of microcredentials can also benefit universities – for example, by attracting students who are also active in the labour market and by establishing cooperation with employers.

Microcredentials can also help make access to training more equitable. According to OECD research, some people interested in becoming active in education pointed to barriers such as:

  • the lack of time due to workload or family responsibilities,
  • the lack of employer support,
  • the lack of financial resources,
  • the provision of training in remote locations or at inconvenient times.

Meanwhile, the characteristic features of microcredentials are: flexibility, smaller volume and digitality. As such, they can respond to these problems.

Microcredentials – what are the challenges of implementing them?

Although microcredentials are an answer to many of the problems of today’s labour market and learners, there are also several challenges associated with their implementation. One of them is to find solutions through which the use of microcredentials will reduce social inequality.

“Currently, the greatest benefits of having microcredentials are gained by people with higher education, those who are young and active in the labour market, who are more likely to choose self-development in this a way and get better results through microcredentials. Therefore, it is worth promoting this solution to other groups of learners as well, and providing wide access to tools supporting the acquisition of microcredentials,”

– concludes Wojciech Gola.