How Micro-Credentials can help represent a diverse Australia
The term diversity can carry different meanings for individuals and organisations.
Typically, it might conjure associations of gender and cultural differences; less typically does it bring to the forefront the inclusivity aspect.
Globally, industries are struggling to overcome supply chain and HR constraints. Historically, low unemployment, rising inflation and a tight labour market will continue to put further pressure on employers and employees alike.
One report by RMIT Online and Deloitte found that with digital competencies now considered essential in any industry, upskilling will play a crucial role in closing the skills gap. The report says that employers spent on average just over AUS$786,000 on upskilling staff in the 2020-21 financial year.
In addition, for skills, we need to consider access.
Many experts have suggested that social policy, such as providing childcare payment support so that more women can return to work or encouraging retirees back into the workforce are critical elements in a more holistic approach.
What is evident is that businesses and service providers are recognising the importance of real workforce diversity, how it adds value to problem solving, decision-making and the social inclusion it creates.
And there is a pool of talent that can be further embraced thanks to the ways that hybrid and virtual working environments are panning out.
Populations living in remote regions, people who are keen to learn but can’t afford university fees and people living with disabilities. These are cohorts who experience disadvantage due to distance, financial constraints, and less obvious dimensions such as unconscious bias – but they can help drive Australia’s inclusive economy and further enhance the diversity of an organisation.
According to data by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, people aged between 15–64 and with a disability, are more likely to be unemployed than those without a disability.
The unemployment rate for working-age people with a disability (10%) is twice that of those without disability (4.6%). Working aged people with severe or profound disability (13%) have a higher unemployment rate than those with other disabilities (9.9%).
The promise of more granular ‘micro-credentials’ will go some way towards closing the skills gap and provide many benefits to employers, employees and industries while building a more diverse Australia by creating real opportunities for people with disabilities.
Engaging, upskilling, and adding value, the different uses of micro-credentials
Using the analogy of a driver’s license, micro-credentials are trusted, assessed verifiable sets of skills or competencies often described by a badge or certificate.
Micro-credentials provide a structured modular way for people to gain new skills over in short bursts or as part of a longer learning or career journey.
An example of an organisation that has succeeded from this approach is Vision Australia, which supports low vision and blind Australians. Through the work and advocacy of its 800 employees and 2,500 volunteers, Vision Australia operates 26 office locations and ten agile sites across the country.
Around 15% of Vision Australia’s workforce are themselves blind or have low vision, so they have specific needs when it comes to onboarding new employees or training existing team members on the skills and competencies they need to perform their roles.
A core technology platform in Vision Australia, IT systems use a Learning Management System (LMS) called D2L Brightspace, which is used to build and deliver highly accessible online courses. This allows everyone to benefit from its training resources and gives management a means of understanding adoption, learning and organisational change.
Better representing a diverse Australia through learning
The Diversity Council Australia’s (DCA) [email protected] Index, reported that workers in inclusive teams are eleven times more likely to be highly productive and are four times less likely to leave their job in the coming 12 months.
Meanwhile, the economic benefits of improving social inclusion, a Deloitte report commissioned by SBS, found that the economic benefit of having a more inclusive society was estimated to be worth $12.7 billion annually. This is because of higher productivity, improved employment outcomes and improved health outcomes.
These studies are just two examples that demonstrate how diversity and inclusivity lead to operational efficiencies and add to company profits due to better work environments.
The Federal Government’s Disability Gateway provides great resources to help people with disability, their family, friends and carers, to find the support they need.
This includes guidance for learners of all ages with disability and short course options for further studies. Among its many resources, the Disability Gateway has information on employment, outlining the support and services available to help people with disabilities to gain the skills and confidence to find and keep a job.
Micro-credentials allow people of all abilities to take a more flexible approach to learning and gaining more qualifications – which helps them to develop their careers. They are quick, focused, and outcome based. They are delivered through a LMS that personalises skill development for learners while bringing the career and workplace benefits of recognising and rewarding qualification as part of longer-term professional development.
Put simply, micro-credentials add to the work environment as it offers people and organisations a targeted and effective way to engage, upskill and be rewarded.
The pandemic forced a lot of organisations to reconsider how they operate whilst supporting staff, members and the public. Just as during the pandemic employers looked for the best online collaboration tools to drive productivity for remote workforces, they are now looking to the best online learning tools to drive outcomes for their people and their organisations.
This is creating opportunities for more people who may not have had the chance to undertake such training in the pre-pandemic world. The economic and social benefits of diversity can’t be ignored, and micro-credentials are an opportunity to better represent a diverse Australia and build a better future for all.
 Diversity Council Australia (O’Leary, J. and D’Almada-Remedios, R.) DCA [email protected] Index 2021-2022: Mapping the State of Inclusion in the Australian Workforce, Sydney, Diversity Council Australia, 2021.