A Comprehensive Guide to Micro Credentials in New Zealand

Claudia Reiners
November 19, 2019

A Comprehensive Guide to Micro Credentials in New Zealand

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has recently approved the micro-credential system as part of New Zealand’s education and training system, broadening opportunities for New Zealanders.

What Are Micro-Credentials?

Micro-credentials are a formal qualification that enables learners to access specific knowledge and skills quickly and cheaply. Often referred to as nano-degrees, micro-credentials are a time and cost-effective way to upskill or enter new industry.

By providing professional development opportunities that are otherwise not catered to in the tertiary education system, micro-credentials are helping to meet demand by industry, employers and community.

Micro-credentials are aimed at people who want to:

  • Upskill or learn a specific skill
  • Work with up-and-coming technology
  • Change careers without having to take time off their current job to train
  • Develop specialised skills that employers are looking for
  • Get credit for skills they have already developed on the job

The Necessity of Micro-Credentials

As employment and education continue to evolve, adding to one’s repertoire of skills is necessary to future-proof personal employability, as well as the productivity of the New Zealand workforce. Similar to nano degrees offered by sites like Udacity, these micro-credentials don’t interfere with learners’ ability to continue working.

A micro-credential system will ensure that the New Zealand education and training system maintains its relevance socially, economically and technologically. Micro-credentials will also provide industry, employers and the community with an opportunity to bring emergent skills to the market quickly, allowing employers to access employees with key expertise, while allowing learners to continuously update their competencies in an ever changing professional landscape.

This system will also make it easier for people to develop up-to-date skills as they explore multiple careers throughout their lifetimes, as well as allow them to refresh or verify the skills they use in their current jobs.

The micro-credential system will be of particular benefit in the information technology industry, with companies requiring digitally skilled workers including coders and data analysts. Some micro-credentials that are worth noting include online communications, future of learning and project management.

The building industry is also seeing a skills shortage, particularly in modular design and construction. Micro-credentials will enable more people to become qualified within the construction sector in a short period of time.

Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation Chief Executive Warwick Quinn describes micro-credentials as:

…a great step forward. We believe it will make training more attractive and relevant for the industry and will attract new talent at a time when we need at least 25,000 qualified people in the next five years to meet demand.

The specific micro-credentials that are set to be of great value for the building and construction industry are in kitchen installations, agribusiness and care taking essentials.

Micro-credentials also allow people to demonstrate the skills they have learned on the job that may otherwise be overlooked, recognising their skill sets while still working.

The New Zealand education and training system will enjoy added value thanks to the introduction of micro-credentials. This includes:

  • Recognising small discrete pieces of learning
  • Encouraging portfolio-based approaches to education and training
  • Credentialing existing knowledge and skills

How Micro-Credentials Will Work

Micro-credentials are subject to the same requirements as other training programs and assessment standards, and are required to:

  • Be 5 – 40 credits in size
  • Demonstrate a need from employers, industry and/or community
  • Not duplicate any learning already approved by NZQA (such as that offered by tertiary education providers)
  • Be reviewed annually to confirm they are meeting their purpose

The content of micro-credentials will also be evaluated from international and New Zealand organisations that are not Tertiary Education Organisations in order to affirm their uniqueness and value.

More than 90 ‘Edubits’ have been tailor-made by Otago Polytechnic for local employers thus far, including the Southern District Health Board, Department of Corrections, and New Zealand Defence Force.

Micro-credentials may also be offered by:

  • Universities, polytechnics, industry training organisations, wānanga and private training establishments
  • Employers and professional bodies, either in partnership with tertiary education providers or directly

Opportunities in the Micro-Credential Sector

The new micro-credentials system presents an exciting opportunity for short course providers to extend their offering of education products. There will also be opportunities for professional associations or regulatory bodies to develop and assess micro-credentials to maintain the competency of their members, for which the NZQA must be contacted directly.

New Zealand tertiary education organisations (TEOs) can apply to have a micro-credential approved by the NZQA – find out more here.

Learners can visit the official NZQA register that lists all approved micro-credentials.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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