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Close Canada’s Skills Gap By Tapping Into Future-Ready Educational Programs

Practical training programs based on micro-credentials offer a “third way” forward in post-secondary education beyond universities and colleges. Darian Kovacs, the Indigenous founder of BC-based Jelly Digital Marketing & PR and Jelly Academy, describes how these programs can deliver a more diverse and dynamic talent pool.

Every post-secondary institution carries a stigma.

Many believe that university prioritizes theory and neglects specialities and job-ready skills. Another common critique is that if you’re not attending to become a doctor or lawyer, you’re taking on debt for a four-year degree only to graduate with general knowledge.

College suffers from a misconception of being “less” than university. It’s “easier to get into.” You don’t need to take academic courses in high school to apply to college. And it’s where our “future hairdressers and firefighters go.”

The third post-secondary option that suffers from a stigma is micro-credentialing. You might be surprised that this option is even being considered here as it’s not as popular as traditional routes, which is exactly the point.

The benefits of micro-credentialing

Up until the last couple of years, micro-credentialing has received minimal federal or provincial support. The benefits of upskilling and reskilling institutions remained unrecognized. And students continued to apply to colleges and universities because those were the two options they knew. But just like the false narrative that university is meant for doctors and lawyers and college is easy, micro-credentialing isn’t an option to glance over.

Canada is suffering from a critical skills gap. More than half (56.1%) of businesses reported having employees who weren’t fully proficient in the ability to perform their job at their required level, according to the Survey of Employers on Workers’ Skills 2021. And of those participants, more than half (57.5%) reported that the in-demand skills were technical, practical or job-specific, and problem-solving.

There is an increasing need for education and training providers to put effort towards future-ready training and education. And micro-credentialing is the poster child of offering job-ready skills. Upskilling institutions are actively fighting to diversify the nation’s talent pool—and many of these are also non-profits, fighting for funding to stay afloat. If micro-credentialing continues to get put on the back burner, Canada’s skills gap will only widen.

Leading programs in Canada

In light of this, it’s worth discovering a little more about Canada’s leading future-ready educational programs:

  • Lighthouse Labs: Tech education company that offers 12-week boot camps for web development and data science, as well as part-time up-skilling courses. All of its programs are online so they are accessible to all, and prepare students for the work-from-home culture that is growing in demand.
  • Palette Skills: Upskilling for quick career transitions in all industries. All programs include employer-led projects, 1:1 career coaching, and opportunities to network with companies. The organization offers both hybrid and online learning. The Automation & Digital Agriculture Specialist Program is hybrid while the B2B Sales & Tech Sales Training is a live online format.
  • Jelly Academy: Focused on helping students upskill, reskill, and gain the necessary micro-credentials to thrive in the world of digital marketing. Its core course is the Digital Marketing Bootcamp, which covers the fundamentals of Social Media, SEO, Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Google Analytics, Public Relations and Email Marketing. The company provides an online or in-person learning environment with both live and self-paced learning.
  • PLATO: The eight-month PLATO Software Tester Training program consists of five months of in-class training and a three-month paid internship. Successful graduates are offered a full-time apprentice position with full benefits and paid vacation. Upon completion, they join the team as junior software testers.
  • NPower: Offering digital and professional skills training, NPower Canada programs are fully funded and provided at no cost to participants. Classes are accessed via the learning management system Blackboard. Participants are expected to log on Monday to Friday, for a minimum of four hours daily.

So, it’s safe to say that stigmas around university and college are often misinformed. Many successful CEOs went to university and many incredibly intelligent nurses went to college. University isn’t just for lawyers and doctors. College isn’t easy.

As for the stigma that micro-credentialing isn’t as important as university or college, we think the nation’s skills gap speaks for itself. And without action, who knows how much wider this gap will get? The World Economic Forum has forecasted that by 2026, nine out of ten jobs will require digital literacy.

Canada has an impressive roster of future-ready education programs—those who don’t leverage these institutions run the risk of falling behind.

Jelly Digital Marketing & PR is a member of the Institute of Canadian Agencies. Report on Marketing is where leading Canadian agencies showcase their insights, cutting-edge research and client successes. The Report on Marketing provides a valuable source of thought leadership for Canadian marketers to draw inspiration from. Find more articles like this at the Report on Marketing.

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