Published on 2013/12/13

Credentialing the Remote Workforce (Part 1)

Credentialing the Remote Workforce (Part 1)
The rising population of remote workers is a promising market for higher education institutions that can adequately meet their job-specific needs.
Companies and organizations are increasingly turning to remote workers to fill vital positions. This is due to a variety of circumstances, including difficulty in attracting potential employees who possess the requisite skills, locating potential employees who reside in close geographic proximity to the corporate facilities, high costs associated with relocating employees and high costs associated with supporting a localized workforce. Therefore, developing and supporting a strong remote workforce becomes a critical business strategy and an important component of the corporate value chain.

Providing ongoing training, development and credentialing for these teleworkers can be challenging for many companies. In response, many are increasingly taking it upon themselves to provide workforce education and certification — bypassing traditional education channels to do so. The following summarizes four strategies companies are using to offer professional development and training for their remote workers.

Strategy 1: Access to Professional Development through Open Systems

An interesting model to emerge recently is the notion of a common framework that provides career-readiness training, development and certification at a fraction of the cost and with less time required when compared to traditional educational formats. This can include updating skills for employees already embedded in the remote workforce or providing skills for new employees who are on-boarding into the workforce for the first time. One such construct is entitled the Open Educational Alliance, created by Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun.[1] The notion of such an alliance is to generate industry-wide partnerships — specific to certain disciplines — that provide individuals with job-ready skills in compressed time formats and using industry standards of employment competency for the 21st-century workforce. These alliances eschew the time-honored, traditional orthodoxy of formal university education in favor of online, credentialed training that can be achieved faster and more effectively than a degree. Furthermore, the argument in favor of these alliances is they can adapt their curriculum very quickly to meet the changing needs of the corporations who hire these individuals. Corporate partners in the Open Educational Alliance include such companies as Google, AT&T, the Khan Academy and Autodesk.

Strategy 2: Badging, Open Badging and Remote Workforce Credentialing

Badges are emerging as a mechanism to ensure workers have achieved competency in any number of workplace skills. Originally conceived as something akin to the Boy Scouts’ merit badge, the original versions were simply static images awarded by corporate training departments to workers who completed an online course related to operational procedures. The newest iteration of a badge is far more sophisticated. They now include critical metadata that describe how, when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, embedded inside the digital badge itself. This metadata provides information regarding how the badge was earned, who was the sponsoring agency and a technical standard that makes it easy for those who have earned badges to share them across enterprises.[2] The Mozilla Foundation’s Open Badges website identifies several organizations planning a workforce cooperative. These include the Manufacturing Institute, which has developed the M-Badge; Badges for Vets, which has issued badges to more than 250 veterans for military skills translated into civilian skills; Project Leads the Way, which provides badging for STEM-based curricula; the Living Classrooms Foundation, which provides job training for urban youth; the Mozilla-sponsored Chicago City of Learning project, which provides opportunities for children to gain hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering, art and math; Coderbits, which has issued more than 500 badges for software developers and designers; and, which creates badges for entry-level workplace skills.

This is the first of a two-part series by Robert Gibson on remote workforce credentialing. To be reminded when the next piece goes live, please click below:

Next installment coming soon

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Readers Comments

Dan Jones 2013/12/13 at 9:37 am

Really interesting to read about the various ways badges are being introduced and developed in the corporate world. Badges and similar credentials are a value-add for employees, who will be able to carry them to other jobs.

Research increasingly shows that a big factor in whether an employee stays with a company is its opportunities for education or skills development. Employees are demanding badges, etc. and companies shouldn’t be afraid to offer them.

Belinda Chang 2013/12/16 at 6:50 pm

One of the challenges in having a largely remote workforce is lack of employee engagement. Thus, offering professional development becomes even more crucial, not just to teach employees required skills, but as a way of keeping them connected to the company and the corporate culture. Companies and institutions should keep this in mind as they’re designing and delivering this type of education.

Madison Riley 2013/12/17 at 7:01 am

I, too, notice a trend of companies taking it upon themselves to offer professional development opportunities instead of relying on an education provider. I would caution them against cutting all ties, and here’s why: things like open access are only useful if you know what you’re looking for. You need someone capable of mining what’s out there and identifying the relevant pieces for your employees.

It’s easy to say that, with the volume of information available online, a company can put together its own program. But educational providers, especially those in continuing education, are experts at designing and carrying out training in a cohesive and engaging way. They can identify weaknesses and quickly adapt their curricula to suit real student-employee needs. They have strategies to achieve learning outcomes. There’s an art to educational delivery, and companies would be unwise to completely disregard that.

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