Developing a Micro-Credential Strategy and then piloting our first climate adaptation micro-credential was not part of the original scope of the project. To be honest, it wasn’t even on our radar when we began.
However, you can’t really talk about capacity-building and learning without talking about how individuals and employers might recognize new competencies. So, while work on the other parts of the project progressed, a side-project sprang up to tackle several tricky and important questions.
- How could we add a level of standardization to the learning experiences we were creating so that they would be recognized by employers across the country?
- How could we help learners focus on the skills they need most, and get recognized for the knowledge they already had?
- How could we help education and training organizations develop their offerings so they create maximum value for learners?
- How could we help employers assess and manage climate adaptation skills and gaps in their talent pool?
- How could we develop a set of relevant climate adaptation credentials that could be recognized nationally when both post-secondary education and professional associations have provincial charters?
At the same time as we were exploring these questions, interest in a new kind of learning credential began to explode – “micro-credentials”. This was triggered in part by shifts in the requirement for new skills, upskilling and rapid approaches to knowledge and skill acquisition as noted in the Future of Jobs Report 2020 from the World Economic Forum.
Capacity-building for advancing climate-change-related leadership has become a critical workforce development requirement for both professionals and front-line workers. There is an urgent need to address the growing impacts and risks of climate change, and workers require upskilling quickly and conveniently through micro-learning experiences to fulfil this critical requirement in corporate, government, small business, consulting services and NGO roles.
Suddenly, these new “micro-credentials” have become front and centre in the work of several higher educational agencies, including BCcampus and eCampusOntario. Recognizing that these organizations could help us with our growing interest in recognition of competencies, we began to explore how they might fit with our project.
Micro-credentials are aptly named. They’re essentially a certification or award for completing coursework or training in a very specific topic over a short period of time – topics such as storm surge risk management or community engagement for climate adaptation.
As we were building out the Climate Adaptation Competency Framework, we recognized that competencies and micro-credentials are two sides of the same coin. One focuses on a framework of domain knowledge and skills, while the other advances and awards recognition for the ability to apply that knowledge and skills.
In discussions with senior education experts like Dr. David Porter and our partners in the climate adaptation community, we also learned that micro-credentials could be a great way to help our target audience meet their upskilling needs.
Most are professionals who already have one or more qualifications, such as a degree and a professional designation. They don’t have the time to invest in another big chunk of training, like a graduate degree or even a multi-course certificate program. They need training in a few specific areas and certification to acknowledge their competency. And they want that training to be portable so that it’s recognized by different employers as they move through their careers.
By the end of 2020, we were convinced that micro-credentials should be a critical piece of the capacity-building strategy for climate adaptation. However, we didn’t have any funding in our budget to do this.
So, we reached out to the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (MAEST) to request funding. They agreed with our assessment of the situation and awarded us a contract to create a Climate Adaptation Micro-credential Strategy early in 2021. The NRCan BRACE program, our project sponsor, provided matching funding.
The goal of the Climate Adaptation Micro-credential Strategy was to undertake an i8nternational scan of bext practices and develop a pilot that we could test as proof-of-concept.
As our team was already stretched thin just meeting our original project goals, we contracted with Dr, David Porter to lead this work.
As work on both the Climate Adaptation Micro-credential Strategy and the Climate Adaptation Competency Framework (CACF) testing progressed, David and the rest of the team began to see that the benefits of this micro-credential approach for both learners and employers could be huge. Employers would be able to identify their organization’s unique expertise and promote that when competing for work (e.g. application of the CACF). At the same time, they could create training and development plans to address areas of skills and knowledge that needed improvement through micro-credential offerings.
Meanwhile, learners could be rewarded for skills and knowledge they already had that added value to their organization and their work, while also figuring out what new skills they would need in the future.
Though this work was still in its early stages as the ALN project was beginning to wrap up, the ALN team submitted a proposal in the Fall of 2021, to BC Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training for funding micro-credential development. In December 2021, we were awarded funding to transition a few ALN courses into a Climate Adaptation micro-credential that included assessment activities in each course to validate the credential, for both learners and employers.
In March 2022, we completed the development of the Climate Action Practitioner Micro-credential which launched in late March 2022. This Micro-credential includes:
- ALN courses, which have been updated to better align with the Climate Adaptation Competency Framework;
- A new course on Transition Leadership, made possible through a collaboration with the Academy of Sustainable Innovation, and
- Assessment activities that recognize learner competencies.
Based on an evaluation of this new offering, Royal Roads University expects to develop additional Climate Adaptation Micro-credentials in the future.