By: Becky Eastburn
Community Relations & Recruitment Specialist
Institute for Professional Excellence – CareerPLUS
It’s no surprise that historic unemployment rates, coupled with a raging global pandemic, have left many in the world feeling anxious. You may be one of the lucky few with a sense of job security, or maybe you have joined others in the job hunt with greater competition for those open positions. Or maybe you have been wanting that promotion, or looking to change careers, or are ready to go back to school to earn that degree. The reality of today’s challenges has unleashed a renewed sense of need for increased education that is not only relevant and affordable, but also flexible.
Enter the world of digital credentials.
Digital credentials were not invented due to COVID-19 or higher unemployment. In fact, digital credentialing has become an increasingly popular option for learners over the years as a way to provide learning to all in convenient, flexible, and affordable ways. Professionals are looking for ways to keep up with a rapidly changing workplace in a world where the jobs of the future don’t even exist today, and employers are looking for employees who are competent in 21st century skills.
What exactly is a 21st century skill?
According to The Glossary of Education Reform For Journalists, Parents, and Community Members, 21st century skills refers to “a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school reformers, college professors, employers, and others—to be critically important to success in today’s world, particularly in collegiate programs and contemporary careers and workplaces. Generally speaking, 21st century skills can be applied in all academic subject areas, and in all educational, career, and civic settings throughout a student’s life.”
That means skills like leadership, communication, conflict management, critical thinking, and innovation are increasingly difficult to find in job candidates and necessary for success in today’s professional world. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that 92% of nearly 900 surveyed executives said soft skills [aka 21st century skills] were equally important or more important than technical skills.”
Clarke University recognized the need in our community for both digital credentials and professional development opportunities related to 21st century essential workforce skills. For the past eighteen months, Clarke has worked to create the CareerPLUS program. CareerPLUS is designed to meet the professional development needs of both individuals and employers by offering non-credit-bearing micro courses and digital badges. Providing opportunities for employees to earn digital badges can lead to higher employee retention, productivity, and equity within an organization. Digital credentials can also be part of a larger strategy to provide quality and streamlined professional development opportunities in onboarding processes and succession planning.
Clarke’s CareerPLUS micro courses are available entirely online and self-paced within a one-month timeframe. Yet, what makes Clarke’s program unique is that the courses are created and facilitated by local experts and responsive to employer feedback. These courses are designed for our workforce and with the needs of our local employers in mind. Another benefit to CareerPLUS is the option to stack digital credentials and earn credit that can be applied towards a degree from Clarke University.
CareerPLUS was created with the future in mind. This program offers individuals and employers the opportunity to invest in themselves while earning verifiable credentials in the essential skills that can be applied today and in the future.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it would be that life will always throw us new challenges, and yet we will adapt, survive, and thrive. Now is the time to invest in ourselves with a renewed focus on the skills needed to land the new job, receive that promotion, or just to continue learning. Digital credentials, like the CareerPLUS program, are here to stay and the workforce will be better for it.