Education has always been the gateway into the workforce. Whether it be trade school, college, or apprenticeship, completing the route results in a diploma or certificate that serves as verifiable proof of a skill. But what about types of education that don’t result in those documents that aid employment?
“There are people who do work-based learning, or go to some college but don’t leave with a degree,” said Alana Dunagan, director of Higher Education & Workplace Policy at Western Governors University. “We don’t have a good language to describe what they know. If we can unlock that language, we can unlock value.”
Aaron Osmund, US lead for the Education to Workforce Team at Amazon Web Services, agreed with Dunagan, stating that it’s difficult to communicate the skills they’re looking for in potential employees.
“We want to hire people with relevant experience,” Osmund said. “But we don’t have a good way to verify that.”
Luckily, new advances in technology may allow employers to do just that: verify micro-credentials, a type of accreditation that validates and attests to specific skills a person has achieved. Timothy Ruff is the CEO of Credential Master, a company that uses Verifiable Credentials Management, or VCM, to digitize documents such as certifications or diplomas. Ruff believes that VCM is also a great way to incentivize employers to keep training workers even after they get the job.
“Let’s establish upskilling and reskilling as a micro-credential,” said Ruff. “No one said learning has to stop once employment starts.”
John Graham, CEO of 1-800 Contacts, said that upskilling his employees is what allows him to hire good talent. Because 1-800 Contacts has a reputation as a company that invests in its employees, more employees want to work there.
“We have a habit of producing more talent than we can consume,” said Graham. “That means we get better people, because they come to us for development.”
By creating a positive work environment focused on verifiable education and work-based learning, businesses and their employees can not only survive but thrive in times of need. According to Wesley Smith, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, it is the best way to move forward.
“The future is here,” Smith said. “The world of building a more resilient workforce is coming.”
The Salt Lake Chamber convened business leaders and community advocates on August 12, 2021, for a summit to address critical shortages in the workforce and included a panel conversation on The Future Infrastructure of Workforce.