Micro-credentials: The new rapid way to build your skills and five tips to help newcomers benefit

Janet Lane, Director, Human Capital Centre at Canada West Foundation, offers valuable advice to newcomers considering studying in a microcredential.

Accreditation and Licensing,Career Success and Planning,Education and Training

June 16, 2022

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In summary:

  • A micro-credential is a rapid education or training program designed to teach you a new skill or knowledge that is in-demand and valued by an employer.
  • Micro-credentials lend themselves well to careers in health care, IT and manufacturing.
  • Skilled newcomers should do their research to ensure a microcredential can potentially be transferred toward another credential in the future.

Micro-credentials are getting a lot of buzz amongst employers and job seekers lately. Defined as short-term, industry-recognized certifications that enhance formal educational qualifications or hands-on work experience, they are a fast way to show employers you have skills they value and differentiate yourself in the job market. For employers, micro-credentials are helping address the ongoing problem of filling vacant skilled roles.

Micro-credentials address the complexity of today's jobs and the breadth of knowledge required for accreditation or licensing in a highly skilled occupation. With increased specialization many of those employed in broadly skilled roles don’t use or require many aspects of their education to perform their duties. By breaking the broader based requirements into areas of specialty it allows employers to build more effective workforces

Driven by labour shortages across industry sectors throughout Canada, they offer the promise to employers of equipping prospective employees with the skills and knowledge needed faster than a year-long certification or multi-year bachelor’s degree.

Many universities, colleges, and education organizations across Canada offer micro-credential courses. In Ontario, the government’s micro-credential portal has over 1,500 courses to choose from ranging from IT and project management to numerous health care specializations.

Once a micro-credential is completed, you can earn a “badge” which is like a digital certificate of completion. Your badge makes it easier to show employers the skills you’ve gained and it can be integrated into your LinkedIn profileor highlighted on your resume.

An opportunity for skilled newcomers


Janet Lane, Director, Human Capital Centre at the Alberta-based Canada West Foundation recently co-authored a report on the promise of micro-credentials in Canada. She believes they help skilled immigrants and refugees find employment faster by showing specific sought-after competencies to employers, even if their international credentials may not be valued or recognized.

Lane cautions that newcomers should do their research before pursuing a microcredential to be sure it can help them reach their career goals. “Newcomers should examine the job market in the area they want to work and find out if employers really value the micro-credential they are thinking about studying,” says Lane.

Lane offers other valuable advice to newcomers considering studying in a microcredential.

1: Determine if a micro-credential can help you achieve your career goal(s).

Job seekers need to determine if a micro-credential is what they need to gain a competitive advantage. Find out if the course is sought after by a particular employer. Does it offer you a skill you don’t already have? Some jobs in health care, manufacturing, aeronautics and agriculture as well as other professions with hands-on components lend themselves better to microcredentials. 

2: Buyer Beware — Ensure you are cautious of microcredentials that overpromise and under-deliver.

Some micro-credential providers may tell you can achieve all your Canadian career goals in “six weeks or less.” While micro-credentials are a rapid form of education, they can’t work miracles. It is recommended that newcomers find out if the college or education provider has a strong reputation and relationships with employers who have said they are hiring for the skillset being taught by the microcredential program.

3: Is the micro-credential “stackable”?

Micro-credentials that can be “stacked” or are transferable toward a larger “macro-credential” like a diploma or degree, can be more valuable than a standalone course. Are employers looking for just one skill or a larger set of skills that can be learned from taking a series of micro-credentials stacked together?

4: You need to be assessed.

A key component of a micro-credential is assessment. This is where the student is evaluated on whether they’ve learned the skill or information being taught. Ensure the micro-credential you are pursuing has an assessment test, exam or assignment. This will be helpful when demonstrating to employers that you have the skill they are looking to hire for.

5: Does the micro-credential fit your life?

Well-designed micro-credentials should be flexible, on-demand and employ a hybrid model that allows students to keep working while they study. This approach allows you to study when and where you want. Ensure you look for micro-credentials that make sense for the speed and demands of your life so that you position yourself to complete them successfully.

Did you know Windmill Microlending can help skilled immigrants and refugees pay for the cost of a microcredential? Learn more about what our affordable loans can be used for, here.  

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