Micro-credentials: The future of education in the workplace

Posted on 23 Aug 2022 by Joe Bush

Stewart McKinlay is Skills Director at the Manufacturing Skills Academy (MSA), part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) Group, operated by the University of Strathclyde. Here he explains what micro-credentials are and why they could help address Scotland’s skills shortage while supporting people to make the leap to a new role in the manufacturing sector.

Scotland is world-renowned for manufacturing expertise and yet the past two years have seen a rapid increase in the need for upskilling, reskilling and education across industry.

People retiring early or exiting the sector to pursue new careers, the lowest number of young people entering the job market in recent years, and the UK leaving the European Union have all contributed to a nationwide skills shortage. As a result, businesses are running with fewer staff, meaning less time for upskilling despite an increasing need due to the rise of new technologies and digitalisation.

Stewart McKinlay
Stewart McKinlay is Skills Director at the Manufacturing Skills Academy (MSA)

There are vast career opportunities within Scotland, especially across industries such as shipbuilding and satellite development, and talent will be needed to fill those roles. The satellite industry has generated upwards of 7,000 jobs across Scotland, and following Brexit, is being positioned once again as the hub of large shipbuilding across the UK.

As we transition towards more sustainable, carbon-neutral ways of working, we must provide routes to upskill both our existing workforce and young people, and educate them on new methods, materials and processes. The right expertise is required to drive green manufacturing across the country, and a close examination of how we attract and retain talent has revealed that flexible education is the key.

Introducing micro-credentials

The Manufacturing Skills Academy, part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, has been developing micro-credential courses in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, University of Edinburgh, and University of the Highlands and Islands. The courses have been designed to encourage people to explore new areas related to their specialism, or within new fields in manufacturing where there is growing opportunity. We want to upskill the existing workforce, allowing employees to bring new skills into their current place of employment and help overcome the recruitment issues faced on a national scale.

Micro-credentials are ‘bite-sized’ credited courses designed to fit around the working day. They are comprised of pre-recorded lectures, seminar tasks and a graded end-of-module assignment. All micro-credential courses and accompanying materials can be accessed online and are designed to be flexible and fit around full-time employment. For example, they could be completed during someone’s free time, be it on their morning commute to work, or a proportion of their lunch break.

To complete the 20 credit micro-credential course, learners take the core manufacturing fundamentals module and then can select five additional modules from a list including Digital Manufacturing, Lean Manufacturing, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Renewable Energy and Carbon Literacy for Manufacturing.

Fully funded places are available through the Scottish Governments National Transition Training Fund (NTTF).

This is just the beginning and as the scope of opportunity for micro-credentials, and their role in the future, are demonstrated further, The Manufacturing Skills Academy will build on these initial modules to include topics at the cutting edge of industry.

Digital manufacturing, for example, is exciting and rapidly evolving, and both businesses and employees may want to brush up on their education in this area. This module has been designed to provide a comprehensive insight into what digital manufacturing is, its future and the opportunities the sector holds, which is a real and current need within many manufacturing businesses.

Future of education

In the UK, the average age at which people stop pursuing further education is their mid-30s. The Manufacturing Skills Academy are hoping to change this by transforming how education is delivered and integrated into work environments, which provides a win-win for employers and employees. Education and upskilling are great ways to attract talent and retain and develop people already in work.

The Manufacturing Skills Academy are looking to support employers and employees in all sectors under the manufacturing umbrella. Allowing employees to access the training they need when they need it, micro-credentials can also allow businesses to educate themselves on additional areas of corporate interest, such as sustainability and inclusivity.

These micro-credential courses will help break down barriers to change the approach of businesses and individuals to learning, promote the value of education, and ultimately improve the manufacturing industry long-term.

Opportunities within Scotland’s manufacturing industry are only continuing to grow and learning this way will help speed up the development and retraining of workers. The flexibility to pursue these courses is also a great way to attract young people into the industry and retain existing professionals, offering up an enhanced experience that welcomes them into a new era of manufacturing, with plentiful options and opportunities.

Developing through micro-credentials opens doors which, until now, many in the industry have struggled to break through.

For more information on Manufacturing Skills Academy and the micro-credentials programme visit www.nmis.scot/nmis-group/manufacturing-skills-academy.

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