Irish Times Feature Thursday May 18, 2023
If you’re looking to boost your career progression - or to make a career change - MicroCreds.ie has the answer.
The new website is a virtual front door into seven of Ireland’s best-known universities. Led by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) they have come together to develop a suite of fully university accredited micro-credential courses.
Micro-credentials are bite-sized, accredited qualifications that allow learners to build skills and competencies in a flexible, fast, and affordable way.
The EU has adopted 2023 as the European Year of Skills and the EU-level target of 60 per cent of all adults taking part in training each year by 2030. Micro-credentials have been developed to address barriers to participation in lifelong learning, including time constraints for learners who would struggle with inflexibility of traditional programme provision and delivery while working.
Micro-credentials are delivered in a mix of formats, including online, in class and hybrid. They allow learners to access education in small chunks at a time and pace that fits in with their life and work commitments.
Not only can students tailor them to their personal interests or career development goals, but the courses available have been designed to help learners – and their employers - stay ahead of emerging industry trends.
Delivered in short, targeted bursts of between four and 12 weeks, they allow learners to formally upskill quickly, without significant time or financial commitments.
Subjects range from business and leadership to IT and computing, sustainability, agriculture and food systems to automation and artificial intelligence, brewing and distilling, design thinking and digitisation.
In all more than 300 short, flexible courses are available at MicroCreds.ie, with new ones being added all the time. The portal gives access to micro-credentials nationwide at University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, Maynooth University, University College Cork, and University of Galway.
Each of the 300-plus courses on offer has been developed in close conjunction with employers.
“Industry tells us about the skills they find it difficult to recruit for, and the upskilling they need for existing staff to make themselves more competitive,” says Ger Carroll, professional education manager at University of Limerick and chair of MicroCreds steering committee.
As well as helping ensure employers have the skills they need in fast growing sectors such as, for example, renewable energy, in a tight labour market supporting professional development has become a key tool for both the recruitment and retention of staff.
“We have heard a lot about quick and quiet quitting and the war for talent. Being able to support new skills is excellent for staff retention because it helps to develop careers and motivate staff. Companies are looking at upskilling as a tool for workforce stability and ensuring their talent is personally and professionally developed,” says Carroll.
Learning that’s lifelong and life-wide
MicroCreds was developed under the HEA managed Human Capital Initiative Pillar 3 Innovation and Agility with funding drawn from the National Training Fund.
“The Government wants to see new programmes that fill talent deficits across a range of areas, including sustainability, ICT, AI, robotics and digitisation, all of which are high priorities. These are spaces that employers find it difficult to recruit talent for, or to convert existing talent into,” explains Carroll.
“It’s about considering the profile of existing talent, for example mid-career professionals, and developing these skillsets for competitive advantage while at the same time honing career advancement,” she adds.
Each micro-credential is a standalone accredited course. Overtime learners will have the possibilities to combine individual micro-credentials into larger awards through stacked or curated learning pathways within universities. A micro-credential is therefore both an end in itself, and a steppingstone back to higher education.
The MicroCreds.ie website is the first one-stop-shop of its kind in Ireland to allow you browse for micro-credentials from multiple universities on one searchable platform.
Not alone do micro-credentials future proof career development for individuals but it supports competitiveness for Ireland Inc.
That’s because micro-credentials are industry informed, explains Jools O’Connor, project lead for MicroCreds at the IUA. The initiative is supported by an enterprise advisory group which feeds directly into the project. That helps ensure that all its courses are developed to address current and dawning skills deficits.
“This is being done to ensure the workforce has the skills required now and in the future, across different enterprises and throughout the country,” says O’Connor.
Whether it’s hard technical skills such as drone technology or cyber security, or soft skills such as managing change and advanced negotiations, micro-credentials clear away many of the existing barriers to reengagement with lifelong learning.
That goes both for employers who no longer have to release staff for extended periods of study, and for employees who want to upskill in a way that fits into their lifestyle, she says.
“Short bursts of learning suits industry, helping them to keep workforce skills up to date and to respond to industry changes,” says O’Connor.
“Continuous learning is also essential for individual career growth and micro-credentials are a very useful way of doing it. Students can choose a course tailored to their career development goals and interests, learning at a pace that suits them, in a way that can lead to a bigger award.”
Whether you want the skills to progress in your current role, or to pivot into a new one, MicroCreds.ie is the brand-new learning pathway that makes it easier to achieve your goals.
“This is something we hope will be an important part of lifelong learning in Ireland going forward, and have a long-term impact,” she says.
To find out more about courses from MicroCreds partner universities click here