Think Small: Microcredentials

by | May 23, 2023

Key points

Glitch in the matrix
Our national skills framework
Enter microcredentials
What’s different
What’s happening

Glitch in the matrix
A glitch describes a temporary or unexpected malfunction or error that results in an unintended and often noticeable disturbance or irregularity. I know this because ChatGPT told me so.

There has been a glitch in our approach to skilling Australia’s workforce that started as an annoying hiccup about a decade ago but is now a full-blown hack attack. Said glitch was not caused by any government, any errant RTOs or any regulator.

Rather, change wrought by waves of disruptive technology is challenging the staus quo as it ripples through knowledge domains, job roles, work tasks, skills requirements. 

Our national skills matrix
The AQF was an innovation (1998) that became the major impetus behind nationally consistent industry skills for most occupations in Australia.  Until then, borders were impenetrable walls when it came to working in another state. There were no jobs in Victoria for a tradie if their qualification was issued by any organisation outside Victoria. The expert hairdresser who married a Queenslander and then shifted to that state was suddenly unemployable. An experienced worker had to ‘top-up’ their out-of-state qualification at some expense or take a whole new training regimen to get a job. The AQF matrix of national industry qualifications eventually put an end to that nonsense.

Updating industry qualifications is not a task to be undertaken lightly for a range of political, economic and social reasons. The training package revision process, and the qualifications themselves, are not designed to cope with sudden shifts in knowledge and skills. They are not designed to be responsive to the impact of disruptive technology on an industry’s workforce. They are not designed to cater to new job opportunities that arise because of transformative work environments.

Enter microcredentials
Qualifications are still fit-for-purpose. However, by themselves, they are no longer enough to meet the ongoing needs of the workforce. The National Microcredentials Framework acknowledges this imperative and offers a way forward that preserves the integrity of Australia’s qualifications framework.

The education landscape is changing with growing demand for shorter-form courses [so there is] potential for microcredentials to rapidly upskill and reskill the workforce [National Microcredentials Framework, P2.]

This is a big step for Australia because credentials have been highly regulated for decades.

What’s different
The Working Group that developed the microcredentials framework has clearly been mindful of many of the obvious pitfalls and has endeavoured to put in place baseline requirements that protect the term ‘microcredential’ from indiscriminate commercial use. Major departures from AQF requirements:

  • Any organisation can offer them
  • Stand alone or stackable courses
  • Minimal course requirements
  • Course levels based on the Dreyfus Model
  • Outcomes are assessed in some way
  • No oversight of course standards
  • No standard format for a credential

What’s happening
Currently, the Microcred Seeker website lists some fascinating options for upskilling or just plain dabbling. Duration, delivery model and charges all vary considerably and virtually all of them are offered by universities.

Microcourses might be new, but it won’t take long for savvy RTO operators to work out how to incorporate them into a portfolio so that they add value to current offerings or build business opportunities.

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