The QA Commons is mindful of the dramatic and transformational impact COVID-19 is having on all institutions of higher education. As an organization, we are adapting our services to support preparing graduates for the workplace that is now changing more precipitously than ever.
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New credentials have captured the excitement of the higher education community and the general public. This is understandable given the high cost of a college degree in a rapidly changing labor market. Universities and technology companies alike continue to launch innovative new certificates and digital badges. Increased demand for shorter, micro-credentials is compounded by the COVID19 crisis. With millions of people preparing to return to work, the need for reskilling is colossal. The QA Commons is also excited about these new opportunities for learners – but stresses that embedding soft skills into certificate programs is critical if certificate programs’ student outcomes are to be fruitful. The QA Commons is developing a proficiency-level rubric for its eight Essential Employability Qualities (EEQs) that encompasses certificate degrees, associates-level programs, and bachelor’s degree programs.
In an April 2021 article by Forbes, The ROI of College for Low-Income Students, it was noted that “even though the time and cost to earn a certificate are typically less than for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, institutions that specialize in awarding certificates are the most likely to be the ones whose low-income students earn less than those who never attended college. Slightly more than half of them leave their average low-income student with no ROI whatsoever. And only 35% show these students earning enough to recoup their costs within five years or less — a percentage far smaller than for two- and four-year schools.”
Micro-credentials and competency-based forms of certification are generally focused on technical skills. If new and returning workers are equipped only with “hard” skills, without the more enduring qualities that provide the ability to adapt to changing conditions, they will be the first to be unemployed as the world of work evolves. The Education Commission of the United States has noted that “Researchers project that 85% of the jobs that will comprise the workforce in 2030 don’t currently exist today.” In their 2019 Talent Trends report, LinkedIn shared their findings that “in today’s world of software engineering and ever-more technology, it’s soft skills that employers want. 91% of companies cited this as an issue and 80% of companies are struggling to find better soft skills in the market.”
As we strive to achieve our mission of ensuring all learners are prepared for the changing world of work, the QA Commons seeks to work with degree and certificate programs alike. The QA Commons welcomes input, comments and questions to help improve this rubric. To provide input, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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