Employers must ensure they have a workforce that is bang up to date with its knowledge, understanding and skills, while minimising the time spent off-the-job. At the same time, learners want to be responsive and part of an active peer group, rather than stuck in the slow lane of ‘qualification hell’. The time is right for learner-centric accreditation underpinned by robust technology and managed by their career peers.
Accreditations are shorthand for confidence and trust. They are a value system, often underpinned by a brand, that codifies the learner’s knowledge, understanding and skills, but also act as a ‘trademark of quality’ to an employer, peer or interested third party.
While many noble professions require many years of training and ongoing revalidation, the 21st Century world of work requires rapid deployment of teams and skilled people, to optimise scarce resources.
The plethora of qualification and education systems (especially across different countries) coupled with greater freedom of movement for employment, means simple accreditation systems are needed that are easy to understand. With a rapidly changing education landscape across the UK and growth in employer engagement and control for funded workplace education (such as apprenticeships), there is increasing focus on how accreditations and qualifications are delivering value and robust outcomes in a timely manner. Even universities are not immune - the National Student Survey is an institutional bellwether, with each university graded against multiple criteria, scored by the student.
In the last ten years, the public has greater access to information on which to form a judgment on the worth of goods and services. Companies such as AirBnB, Ebay and Uber rely on customer and peer review to underpin their transactions to build a trust-based community of buyers and sellers. Education, qualifications and accreditations appear to be the next frontier for similar change, powered by a blend of technology and peer review.
Comparability of qualifications across countries is time-consuming and a movable feast, despite the best efforts of overseer institutions such as NARIC. Employers, learners and practitioners need accreditation systems that they can trust, are comparable across boundaries, but are underpinned by peer review, not obscured by opaque vested interests and can quickly meet the demands of a fast-paced, competitive economy.
Disciplines such as project management, medicine, software development and capacity planning have adopted quicker, more informed decision-making to gain an advantage and keep up with technology adoption. By using agile and sprint methodologies (underpinned by verified, peer-reviewed evidence), many people who deal with risk every day of their working lives are wondering why policy is not keeping up?
The time is right for “accredit when ready”. Accreditations get to the specific skills that are needed now, especially for those hard-to-measure soft skills such as team working and critical analysis. While there will still be a place for the completion of lengthy qualifications, accreditations (often delivered via micro-credentialing solutions such as open badging) negate the downtime that learners have to put up with, such as waiting for the next training block or lecture.
The notion of “just-in-time” delivery is enormously helpful in responding to legislation, whereby learners and workers cannot work if they do not have the necessary knowledge, training and license to practice their jobs. Technology helps deliver this, rather than waiting for a qualification to be developed and a trainer to deliver the material. Far better that a peer-reviewed micro-credential facilitated by engaging rich-media gets to the heart of the problem right away.