The Increasing Integration of IT Certs and Micro-Credentials in Workforce Training
According to Google — seemingly the originator of this concept — micro-credentials are "units of learning that are customized, competency-based, just-in-time and job-embedded."
Whether or not micro-credentials are indeed Google's brainchild, the mega-company is exerting a sizable effort to provide a sizable collection of such miniature learning units to educators and job training programs. The ostensible goal is to help prepare the workforce for specific, IT-related job roles and tasks likely to be encountered by new workers.
It appears to be working, too. Apparently there is massive uptake underway in all kinds of training programs, including workforce development and community college offerings of all kinds. In addition, it looks like the tendency to integrate certs and micro-credentials into academic programs is steadily increasing — particularly for one- and two-year programs at trade schools and community colleges.
Opening Salvo: South Texas College
I came across the micro-credentials boom thanks to a story in Texas Border Business, a monthly business-focused online and print publication serving the Rio Grande Valley of that monster (and my home) state. It documents a grant awarded to South Texas College to get members of the Computer Science faculty trained up on the Google micro-credentials.
Those instructors can then turn around and integrate those materials into courses and certificate programs, making MCs avaialable to students as part of their curriculum and workforce development training. The story quotes the STC dean for Math, Science and Bachelor programs, Ali Esmaeli, as saying the following:
"(T)his grant aligns with goals set forth by the STC['s] President ... ensuring that students remain marketable, employable, and competitive in the industry." The story goes on to assert that "micro-credentialing is critical to this success."
The idea, apparently, is to integrate and embed micro-credentials into the STC curriculum. The aim, according to Esmaeli, is to "allow our students to excel and gain a head start over other job candidates once they graduate."
Clearly, educators are convinced by Google’s intentions to arm them with compact, teachable training modules and materials well-suited to develop specific IT-related job skills and knowledge. Two units come in for direct mention in the story: Google IT Automation with Python and Google Data Analytics.
Rounding Up the Usual Suspects
In searching for educational institutions and online training outlets offering these micro-credentials, I’m astonished to see just how many are involved. Among the MOOC platforms, all the major players pop up, including Coursera, EdX, Udemy, Udacity and so forth.
Most major online training companies — including the likes of PluralSight, HotSpot Academy, Udemy Business, Global Knowledge, and so on — are also on the field. And I’m pleased to see that many (if not most) community colleges, and a great many colleges and universities (including lots of graduate institutions as well as four-year-only programs) are actively engaged integrating micro-credentials into their curricula (well outside the Google umbrella, as well as underneath it).
I see this as a big win for all parties involved. It’s great for the companies, professional societies and associations, and other sources from whence micro-credentials originate, because it creates cadres of informed and presumably enthusiastic adopters of the tools, platforms and technologies covered.
It’s beneficial to employers because it arms current and prospective employees with current skills and knowledge designed to be useful and to improve workplace productivity. And finally, it’s good for current and prospective IT workers.
For those entering the workforce, widespread integration of Google MCs arms them with valuable current skills and knowledge. Workers can build up their workplace acumen in bite-sized and digestible learning units that they can pick up and acquire without taking time off from their current jobs, or making a significant, long-term investment of time and money.
My prediction: more and more, IT workers are going to jump on micro-credentials to bolster their skills and knowledge portfolios. In fact, I think this give an impetus toward badging that has been hard to translate from “good idea” to “solid workplace value” for years now. Good stuff!