What’s behind the buzz about micro-credentials?

Continuing Studies

- Therese Eley

Clarke. Credit: Therese Eley

In President Kevin Hall’s recent town hall, he spoke about some of the themes he has been hearing from community members as well as UVic staff and faculty during his “listening tour.” One of those themes has been an important part of his life and career, namely that of accessibility to post-secondary education and the value of a university to its community throughout people’s lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for varied educational opportunities for people who are seeking new skills, knowledge and connections to thrive in an ever-changing economy, generating interest in micro-credentials.

The provincial government is partnering with UVic and other post-secondary institutions to help British Columbians quickly and effectively develop additional skills and competencies as part of its economic recovery plan and to help employers find qualified people for high-demand positions.

Just because micro-credentials have become a buzz word recently, doesn’t mean it’s a new concept in the post-secondary world.

Short, professional programs that combine academic rigor with applied practice have been in the domain of continuing education and extension units for decades. What is different about micro-credentials is the attention they are receiving from government, industry, employers and the credit side of the post-secondary house.
Jo-Anne Clarke, dean of UVic Continuing Studies

An integral part of UVic since 1963, the division offers a comprehensive portfolio of programs in a range of disciplines and programming models to serve adult, part-time, international and geographically dispersed students for lifelong learning.

When the pandemic hit last March, the South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) sprang into action— creating the Rising Economy Taskforce, which began looking at ways of responding to the pandemic and what a resilient and recovering economy might look like for the South Island.

“What emerged was a recognition of the need for up-skilling and re-skilling programs that were responsive, nimble and aligned with what was needed at this moment in time,” says UVic Community and Government Relations Executive Director Jennifer Vornbrock.

Vornbrock also serves as a board member on SIPP, an alliance of 11 municipal governments, all three post-secondary institutions and numerous business and industry representatives focused on the economy.

“Micro-credentials emerged as a key theme across several of the industry sub-committees in the taskforce,” Vornbrock recalls.

In late 2020, the provincial government responded with funding to promote up-skilling and re-skilling for BC residents who are unemployed or under-employed due to the pandemic.

UVic, along with Royal Roads and Camosun—through their collaboration with SIPP—were able to secure funding and in January, UVic launched two new micro-credential programs through Continuing Studies: Essential Skills for Data Literacy and Skills to Support Independent Living.

Beyond the two new fully funded micro-credential programs, Continuing Studies has been building an extensive portfolio of micro-credential professional development programs to meet the expressed needs of their learners.

“In recent years, we have seen an increase in learners looking for education that doesn’t require the time commitment of a longer, traditional credential, that has flexible entry points, doesn’t necessitate an onerous application process, and teaches hands-on knowledge that the learner can bring immediately into their workplace,” says Miranda Angus, director of business, science and technology in Continuing Studies.

While at this point no one is expecting micro-credentials to replace traditional degree programs, they do open up an opportunity for post-secondary institutions like UVic to show their ability to be adaptive and responsive to the needs of the larger community.

Through laddering opportunities, entry pathways and strategic alignment with industry standards, micro-credentials are an important way to engage with and retain learners throughout their lives and careers.


In this story

Keywords: community, administrative, COVID, employment

People: Kevin Hall, Jo-Anne Clarke, Jennifer Vornbrock, Miranda Angus

Publication: The Ring

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