Skills – digital and non-digital – are the engine of the economy. Employers need skilled workers, and skilled workers fill jobs with higher wages and benefits. The most in-demand digital skills are increasingly needed across all employment sectors, including traditional manufacturing.
But it is difficult to test digital skills. Researchers recognize that these skills are not isolated skills that you develop through short courses or by teaching yourself to use a program for work. Digital skills are ‘interdependent in practice’ and require a new form of measurement.
One way to do this is to use a digital passport – a central record where skills can be documented and to which job seekers can give employers access. A digital passport could verify skills and use artificial intelligence to do the big work that translates skills into skills that employers care about.
So how could a digital passport work?
Start documenting digital skills in high school
Young people can start creating their digital passport very early on, as soon as they enter high school. Every student could access the shell of a digital skills passport from grade 9, by logging into an online CV similar to LinkedIn, but with many more features.
As they gain skills and degrees, their supervisors, teachers, managers, course leaders or educational institutions will check what they have accomplished and update the passport. This verification can take the form of badges, micro-accreditations (certifications specific to skills recognized by the industry, generally “micro” courses), licenses, diplomas and internships. It will be a living document that will showcase exactly the types of skills employers demand.
Hopefully, the digital skills passport will motivate students to gain the experience, skills and credentials that future employers recognize and value. The passport could include work samples; video clips of the passport holder demonstrating specific skills; and the cumulative number of hours spent learning, developing, demonstrating and refreshing those skills. The passport would include employability skills as well as technical skills.
I think such a digital passport would encourage students to focus on the skills and apply them in real situations. They would see the relevance of their learning and keep an eye on the skills their potential employers value, motivating them to prepare for the future.
The original skills passport
Of course, the Registered Learning Program has been documenting skills for years and could be the focus of a discussion on creating a universal digital skills passport for both online and offline skills. These learning-while-earning programs have been a breeding ground for talent for businesses of all sizes around the world.
A registered apprenticeship qualification works like a skills passport as, in most cases, skills are nationally recognized. And these skills mean something. People who successfully complete their apprenticeship earn $ 300,000 more (including benefits) over the course of their working lives than their peers who did not graduate from college, according to a Mathematica study.
The apprenticeship was supported by the Democratic and Republican presidents, including the current administration. President Biden will expand apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships with the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which is expected to be passed by Congress with bipartisan support. Once it is law, it will create a million new learning opportunities.
Having a credential-based program that is proven to be successful, like apprenticeship, means we don’t have to start from scratch. We have a viable model for establishing nationally recognized and transferable credentials that include both technical and employability skills.
Running verification with Credential Engine
Some people are already developing a systematic online system for documenting credentials across the United States. The Credential Engine is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing credibility and consistency to the vast network of credentials in the United States. credits. These include high school diplomas, apprenticeship programs, massive open online course providers (MOOCs), non-university providers, and post-secondary educational institutions.
On the Credential Engine website, you can search for credentials, organizations, ratings, learning opportunities, competency frameworks, and pathways. The site does not yet filter discrete skills, but that might just be too granular for its business model. I would suggest, however, that the Credential Engine does some crucial groundwork for the concept of a digital skills passport. It is important to note that the “engine” helps to recognize and verify courses, qualifications, learnings and skills across the United States. It is possible that their verification system will eventually be used internationally, which would bring us closer to a global digital skills passport.
Google, Microsoft, Walmart, JP Morgan Chase & Co and the Lumina Foundation are among the founders of Credential Engine. Their interest in documenting credentials underscores the extent to which employers around the world seek out skilled workers and often struggle to find them.
A digital skills passport that showcases recognized and verifiable skills could help employers identify ready-to-use talent for positions they have not been able to fill. It could also encourage the next generation of workers to start focusing on skills as early as high school and develop lifelong learning habits.