Photo of a steel worker with a metal grinder in their hands in a factory promoting micro-credentials.

What are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are not a new phenomenon. Both the private and public sectors have been using them to help upgrade the skills of labourers (e.g., forklift and working at heights certifications), teachers (credentials earned during professional development programs), and even highly trained physicians (certifications in new advancements in health care). However, recent world events and economic changes have highlighted the need for the workforce to adapt to emerging trends, that without adequate training will impact it negatively.

A recent report from the provincial government’s Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) suggests that the timing for the implementation and execution of a micro-credential strategy may have become more urgent over the last year (Prichette, Brumwell, Rizk and Han, 2021). Previously, the trend toward digitalization and automation of the workforce had put pressure on the global economy to keep up with technological advances over the past decade. However, the impact of COVID-19 on the world stage has accelerated many of these transitions and added new ones.

The study’s findings suggest that there is a lack of understanding or agreement on the definition of micro-credentials in Canada and this can be a barrier to successful implementation of a critical nation-wide upskilling strategy. However, they also assert that that micro-credentials would be welcomed and even lauded by employers in the coming years as a way of determining competencies of applicants such that it will help determine micro-skill sets that individual positions may rely.

The study recommends that higher education look at creating a unified definition of micro-credentials and offer the following as a possible choice:

A micro-credential is a representation of learning, awarded for completion of a short program that is focused on a discrete set of competencies (i.e., skills, knowledge, attributes), and is sometimes related to other credentials (Prichette, Brumwell, Rizk and Han, 2021).

Where can we use them?

The micro-credential model therefore benefits the individual in gaining real skills that are in high demand while providing employers with a system to identify those best qualified for positions they seek to fill. And finally, it helps the country regain momentum lost during the pandemic or to the changes wrought by digitalization and automation with a highly skilled workforce.

Pichette, J., Brumwell, Rizk, J., & Han, S. (2021). Making sense of microcredentials. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Retrieved from

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