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Staying Competitive in a Post-Pandemic World with Microcredentials

In a post-pandemic world, it is critical that higher education helps its students stay competitive in the ever-changing world of work. Providing just-in-time, stackable, flexible education is the best way to help learners upskill and reskill for their current and future jobs. 

The pandemic has shifted our world as we know it, causing industries of all types to rethink how they serve their communities. While the impact of the pandemic cannot be overstated, in the midst of all the bad news lies a tremendous opportunity for higher education to reinvent itself. Indeed, the pandemic has given universities and colleges a much-needed nudge to accelerate their pivot to online learning and meet the demands of learners in the new normal.

All the recent data point to this reality: change is the only constant in today’s job market. Report after report shows that Canadians need to update their skills to stay employable and competitive. According to a new report by Morneau Shepell, one in four Canadians is considering a career change due to the pandemic. While another report by Gartner shows that 58% of the tech workforce will need to develop new skills to perform their jobs successfully. 

Reskilling and upskilling the workforce through lifelong learning are key to employability. At Ontario Tech University, we have been meeting this demand through our ‘reimagined learning’ approach long before the pandemic hit, and through sector-leading initiatives like Ontario Tech Talent, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ontario Tech University dedicated to the skills challenge. Ontario Tech has been providing a wide range of flexible, stackable microcredentials: short, competency-based learning opportunities focused on specific skillsets and based on criteria defined and approved by industry. Microcredentials are customized to meet the needs of the learners at their own pace. 

The Safe Patient Transfer micro-certification, developed by Ontario Tech and Durham Region’s Lakeridge Health with the support of eCampusOntario, is a prime example. The program proved to be invaluable during the pandemic and was so successful that we are creating a stackable micro-certification on healthcare and safety to pilot at a long-term care facility. This microcredential allows nursing students (and graduates) to gain practical experience in safely lifting patients that goes beyond their traditional degree studies. 

At Ontario Tech, we envision a future where it’s normal for adult learners to return to campus once a month, long after they graduate, to update their skills. We are on a mission to make Continuing Education learner-centered, flexible and accessible to everyone in our community. This is why we teamed up with TD Ready Commitment to offer 1,000 free microcredentials across 24 areas of interest to help members of the public update their skills and participate in the rapidly changing economy. From challenging cultural biases to teaching cognitive flexibility and self-awareness, a wide range of courses are available to those looking to upgrade their skills at no cost. We need all Canadians as highly trained as possible in a post-pandemic world, and we thank TD Bank for their commitment to accessible learning.

Microcredentials document and certify skills through employers with verifiable digital badges. All acquired Ontario Tech microcredential badges are carried in a virtual ‘backpack’ stored in the cloud. Students have the option of using the backpack built into their Ontario Tech mobile app, making it easy for learners to see their badges and share them with prospective employers.

The power of microcredentials lies in being able to offer the same skill to current students and non-traditional learners as microcredentials can be stacked toward higher-level learning goals such as a professional master’s diploma, master’s degree or a new creative designation. We don’t need to be shackled by the academic calendar, the 13-week semester or other disincentives to individuals looking for just-in-time certifications based on their own schedule.

A post-pandemic world needs problem solvers and critical thinkers who embrace lifelong learning, foster a growth mindset and are comfortable with uncertainty. To thrive and stay competitive, one needs to proactively engage in updating skills on an on-going basis. In other words, one needs to embrace lifelong learning. As Peter Drucker once said, “The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.” The future has already arrived at Ontario Tech.


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