The value of micro-credentials

12 Mar 2021

As we navigate a world disrupted by COVID-19, opportunities to quickly learn new skills have never been more important.  

Micro-credentials provide access to a wide range of education and training opportunities, allowing people to re-skill for a new career, or up-skill in their existing one. They are designed to be flexible, so people can learn in a way that suits their individual needs and circumstances.

Micro-credentials certify the achievement of a specific set of skills and knowledge. Smaller than qualifications, they focus on areas not currently met in the tertiary education system that meet a need from employers, industry, iwi or the community. Learners can achieve micro-credentials in the workplace, classroom, online or through a blend of these options.

From an employer’s perspective, micro-credentials can respond to industry needs more quickly than qualifications, which take longer to develop before learning commences. They allow New Zealand businesses the opportunity to partner with tertiary education organisations, responding quickly to critical knowledge and skill gaps.

Examples of this partnering include a tree planting for forestry operations micro-credential, providing ‘just-in-time’ training to seasonal workers, or a micro-credential developed to certify the specialist skills required to screen and inspect cargo and mail being loaded onto aircraft.   

Though micro-credentials can contribute or be ‘stacked’ towards a larger qualification, they are intended to be valuable credentials by themselves.

The impact of COVID-19 on New Zealand’s labour market is likely to mean a greater need for micro-credentials to help people upskill, retrain and quickly redeploy to new jobs. It is no surprise that New Zealand education agencies are working to support and accelerate the further development and delivery of micro-credentials.

Micro-credentials were introduced to New Zealand in 2018, with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) responsible for ensuring they are valued as credible and robust.

Last year NZQA approved the 100th micro-credential, spanning a range of areas from meeting administration to electric vehicle maintenance. In addition, 26 micro-credentials from organisations that are not recognised Tertiary Education Organisations in this country have been assessed against the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. We call this equivalency, and a number of organisations have used this process to recognise the value of the in-house training that they offer.

Though there will continue to be a need for formal qualifications, micro-credentials enable an adaptive, flexible education and training system to support New Zealand learners and businesses to realise their potential.

NZQA is excited to see how employers, industry, iwi and education organisations will continue working together to ensure our learners Qualify for the Future World: Kia noho takatu ki tō āmua ao.

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