Upskilling: workers, jobseekers, business owners and school leavers embrace micro-credentials


Gaining a new skill does not have to mean a commitment to years of study. Micro-credentials have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak – and many are free.

Melanie Burgess, Careers deputy editor, News Corp Australia Network

November 12, 2020 12:30pm

 

Workers don’t need to commit to years of study to take back control of their careers after the disruption of 2020.— short courses focused on specific skills that employers need — have become increasingly popular as people aim to make themselves indispensable with their employer or move into a more secure industry.

The courses have also been embraced by school leavers hoping to set themselves apart in a crowded job market and aspiring business owners brushing up on the skills they need to get their idea off the ground. It is easy to gain micro-credentials with short online courses.

Hays Australia and New Zealand managing director Nick Deligiannis says micro-credentials are well-regarded by recruiters.

“It is important to continuously update your own skills and recruiters and hiring managers value candidates who have a self-directed approach and a lifelong learning mindset,” he says. “Microlearning allows you to keep up with the latest trends and facilitate your own upskilling quickly, easily and effectively, keeping your skills fresh for the here and now.”

New LinkedIn research reveals almost half (44 per cent) of Australians turned to some form of upskilling to help secure their careers during the pandemic.

LinkedIn Learning and Glint Asia Pacific senior director Jason Laufer says it has become especially important to embrace “always on” learning and keep up with the pace of change in the current climate.

He says digital skills, such as programming and digital marketing, is the fastest-growing skills category globally for LinkedIn members.

“This is closely followed by data analysis – skills that can, for example, help uncover trends in uncertain times,” Laufer says. “We also see agile project management skills trending as businesses zero in on where to optimise and streamline efforts.”

To help make micro-credentials accessible for as many people as possible, Australian-based digital learning marketplace Skill Finder was launched last month by Balance Internet to offer mostly free courses from companies such as Adobe, Microsoft and Xero.

The most popular topics so far have been basic design principles, business analysis and artificial intelligence.

Balance Internet managing director James Horne likens workers gaining micro-credentials to Boy Scouts gaining badges. “You can get a group of them together and go into the workforce and say ‘these are the skills I have got’,” he says. Balance Internet’s James Horne says Skill Finder’s short courses are useful for many demographics. Picture: Supplied

Horne recently hired an account manager who had gained data analytics, digital marketing and search engine optimisation micro-credentials after his full-time job was reduced to four days a week in the wake of COVID-19.

“It showed he was enthusiastic and trying to educate himself up in his spare time,” he says. “The skills he brought were exactly what I was looking for.”

Horne says his 17-year-old son is another example of someone using micro-credentials to gain a career edge.

He plans to study graphic design at university next year but is already on Skill Finder doing relevant courses.

“He may get enough skills to get work experience or a part-time job to get through university — not just packing shelves but in his industry of choice,” Horne says.

“For people leaving the school environment or young people who might be out of a hospitality or tourism job, Skill Finder might provide an opportunity to get a grab bag of skills to get them an entry-level position in an area where there are more jobs. “Luke Hopkins started his flatpack furniture business after doing a quick, free online course.

Business owner Luke Hopkins, 33, used Skill Finder to brush up on his digital marketing knowledge before launching locally manufactured, environmentally sustainable flatpack furniture business Ecosium last month.

It was not his first business venture but Hopkins knew digital marketing was constantly changing so he could not rely on previous experience alone. “Online advertising platforms change month to month so you have a hard time staying abreast of changes,” he says.

“It was a short course so I brushed up on skills in a few hours then had the confidence and capability to jump in.”

The Tylden, Victoria resident expects he will explore further micrcredentials in the future — although he is unsure what they will be at this stage.

“When you are doing everything yourself at the start, you will encounter challenges (but) you don’t know what you will need to know until you get there,” he says.

“Being able to quickly go to a website and find the skill, that’s really beneficial.”

FIVE SKILLS WORTH MASTERING

1 Curriculum development (660 jobs listed on LinkedIn include this keyword)

2 Business analysis (3940 jobs)

3 JavaScript (2060 jobs)

4 MYOB (470 jobs)

5 Digital marketing (2190 jobs)

 

Source: LinkedIn’s most important skills for top trending jobs in Australia, June to August, 2020.