Jackie Pichette, Dua Abdelqader and Mona Eghanian — Unlike cars, microcredentials won’t drive themselves

Microcredentials are a form of focused learning with the potential to respond to both the modern hiring needs of employers and the training needs of adults looking to advance or pivot in the labour market. At HEQCO, we define them as being tied to short learning opportunities that are focused on a discrete set of skills, knowledge or attributes. They provide more targeted training than traditional degrees, certificates and diplomas.

Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) was one of the groups HEQCO engaged in research about microcredentials. The automotive and mobility sector, being a site of frequent innovation and technological disruption, is a great example of a place where microcredentials could serve both employers and workers. Teams from AVIN and HEQCO discussed our research findings in an effort to identify the opportunities and challenges associated with microcredentials, and the applicability of HEQCO findings to the automotive and mobility sector.

Here’s a summary of what we have learned:

Microcredential Opportunities for the Sector

As the automotive and mobility sector rapidly evolves, so too will the skills needed to support this transformation. Microcredentials hold the potential to rapidly upskill adult learners with very specific training needs in order to address skills gaps in new technologies or emergent advanced practices like electrification, advanced manufacturing processes, robotics, simulation, cybersecurity and lightweighting.

With the increased productivity, efficiency and safety these technologies will bring, there will be more demand for cognitive and digital skills as well as skills that are more difficult to automate. If developed with these demands in mind, and in partnership with employers, microcredentials can help facilitate the development of transferable skills, and position workers to be more resilient and adaptable to industry changes.

Ensuring Success

To capitalize on the opportunities described above and ensure microcredentials meet the stated needs, microcredential providers will have to pay attention to employer and learner requirements, such as:

  • Responsiveness: The automotive and mobility sector is changing quickly, and employers need staff who can keep up with the pace! Microcredentials will be most valuable if they are developed quickly, involve consultation or collaboration with employers (to identify learning outcomes and measures of success), and respond to needs as they arise. This also requires that labour market intelligence remains current and reliable.
  • Transparency: To build trust (among employers and learners) that microcredentials are in fact responding to emerging needs, providers will need to be transparent about learning outcomes and how/whether they are assessed. Recognition of outcomes is crucial so that workers can fully realize the value brought by microcredentials.
  • Accessibility: Microcredentials are best suited to serve adults with busy schedules, who have lots of prior learning and experience, and who may be affected by labour market disruptions. Serving this group well will require careful consideration of needs like flexibility and affordability.

In the automotive and mobility sector, microcredentials are unlikely to add value or attract interest if they fail to deliver on these needs. Providers should consistently evaluate (and re-evaluate) how well their offerings stack up against these measures of success. As AVIN has heard from industry representatives, in order to be effective, microcredentials must be delivered in ways that are nimble, consumable and responsive to industry needs

With job change becoming an increasingly common experience for adult workers and employers, short, flexible and affordable learning opportunities focused on teaching job-relevant skills will be key to adapting and thriving over the long term. The automotive and mobility industry represents one example where microcredentials could meet the needs of both employers and students, if providers “drive” responsibly.

Jackie Pichette is director, policy, research and partnerships at HEQCO. Mona Eghanian is director, strategy and programs at AVIN and Dua Abdelqader is an engineering consultant with Arup, she was recently manager, research and insight with AVIN, a branch of the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

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