Microcredentials reshaping the skills landscape: Top 5 in-demand courses

Australia’s workforce is facing a growing and acute skills divide. The World Economic Forum said one in two workers will need reskilling by 2025 and those remaining in their current role will need to update 40% of their skill set to adapt to the shifting labour market.

To keep up with the evolving skills we need to develop across our working lifetime, we must reimagine education experiences that stretch beyond a physical classroom. Aussies are increasingly looking for flexible, targeted and industry-focused learning options that they can apply in their careers, and can be undertaken without disrupting their work life.

This shift to lifelong learning has meant a greater acceptance across industry of new ways to educate. Ernst and Young went as far as to predict approximately forty percent of existing university degrees will soon become obsolete. This goes against Statista data, which shows over the last 20 years, the share of the Aussie population that holds a degree at a bachelor level or above has increased by six times (reaching over 50% in 2022).

Whichever your opinion is, there is no denying if we are to dip in and out of learning throughout our working lives, we must reimagine what education experiences can look like.

The rise of microcredentials and short courses

The rise of microcredentials and short courses can be attributed to a few factors, like the increasing demand for highly skilled workers, the growth of online learning, and the need for more accessible methods of skill assessment. Alongside providing a robust, trusted representation of skills with university grade academic integrity, they are also a flexible and accessible way to show skills competency and stand out in a competitive job market.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has also commissioned a National Microcredentials Framework, to enable the creation of a Microcredentials marketplace. Designed in discussion with over 120 individuals from about 70 organisations from higher education, vocational education, and industry, the framework is another example of the Australian Government looking to fund, back and credential learning.

RMIT Online launched its first coding course with Apple in 2017, and has since gone on to build a shop front of over 90 microcredentials in everything from Digital Marketing, to Blockchain, Cybersecurity to Salesforce Administration. We have worked closely with the industries to identify the skills gaps they face, and co-design solutions to address them.

We also take this one step further, using expert mentors to run one-to-one sessions with students. In 2022, we had over 7,500 students enrol in microcredentials, and have seen a steady growth year on year as individuals and firms look at new ways to sharpen skillsets.

Further, we’re also seeing a shift in how companies hire, particularly in regard to credentials. Businesses are increasingly looking for skills and are much more open to hiring candidates who have gained qualifications in short courses or microcredentials.

What are Aussies currently studying?

We have known for some time we were approaching a skills mismatch, with increasing shortages of digital literacy, technical, customer service and problem-solving skills in the workforce. People are motivated to enrol in short courses for two reasons: for personal improvement or professional development. On a personal improvement level, people want to develop their learning and development opportunities or explore a different career path.

Another reason could be to help solve a particular skills gap to meet their professional goals. Some workplaces even provide employees with access to short courses for their training needs. Here are the current top 5 in demand courses as provided by RMIT Online.

Business Analytics

In 2020, 34,100 people were working in this industry, and by 2025, the industry size is expected to reach 43,500. Business analysts are required for almost every industry, including IT, financial services, health, retail, telecommunications – or any industry where tech can improve business operations. This Future Skills Short Course bundle includes a course in Business Analytics and Visualisation and Business Analytics with SQL and Python.

This course has partnered with Accenture, Xello and Menulog, helping students apply data-driven decisions to drive value, develop sought-after skills, and increase their employability.

Digital Marketing Strategy & Campaigns

According to SEEK, there will be a 21.1% job growth in digital marketing over the next five years. RMIT Online offers Digital Marketing Strategy and Implementing Digital Marketing Campaigns courses with partners like Adobe, REA Group and Merkle. Students will be able to learn the knowledge and skills to execute a successful digital marketing campaign.

User Experience & User Interface

Last year, SEEK reported that demand for UX Designer roles continued to rise, with over 1,500 available roles available in Australia, while UI Designers ranked within the top 15 careers in-demand by LinkedIn. The User Experience & User Interface course bundle helps students adopt a user-centric approach to problem-solving and utilise research, iteration, prototyping, and visual elements to design experiences that delight.

Students will also receive industry insight from Symplicit, a design consultancy that uses behavioural research to inform strategy, design and digital delivery.

Customer Experience Strategy & Design

Qualtrics found that poor customer experience (CX) could cost Aussie businesses up to $69bn every year. The Customer Experience Strategy & Design course enables students to craft personalised CX by gaining valuable design thinking skills in research, customer journey mapping, prototyping, etc. RMIT Online, REA Group and Concentrix Tigerspike have partnered to create a course that addresses key customer and business problems.

Project Management for Professionals

SEEK predicts that the number of Project Manager roles is set to grow by 9.2% in the next five years. The course is designed for early and mid-career professionals in all business functions looking to gain transferable project management skills as part of their role.

Students will be provided with industry insight from partners such as Monday.com, Unliver and Thoughtworks and given the effective skills to motivate, communicate, and deliver business outcomes in any complex situation. Microcredential courses are resonating with Australians due to the need to reskill and upskill in their careers without the commitment of an undergraduate degree or investing in the hefty costs associated with obtaining a degree.

They equip learners with skill sets needed to keep them competitive, employable, and ready for the job market. Alongside the career benefits of micro-credentials, they also enable pathways towards formal qualifications, allowing people to learn in smaller units.

However, the collective reskilling effort is one that must be addressed by individuals, industry and government. Every individual should be reflecting on what skills they are learning in their current role, and asking their employer to help support their growth in new areas – be it through formal training or work projects.  Employers too must shift their perspective on training as something that is core business activity, not a nice-to-have.

COVID-19 served as a wake-up call that we can’t become complacent in how we work and learn. What we need now, is to see a shift to a lifelong learning mindset, to power business transformation and help Australians remain competitive on the global stage.

Julian Stevenson is the Product & Workforce Development Director at RMIT Online.