What learning will the National Skills Passport record?
Last week the government launched consultations on a National Skills Passport.
The consultation paper includes some important questions for education institutions and how their systems might interact with the new passport, as well as seeking to engage employers and individuals on how they might look to use the passport.
The concept of a National Skills Passport is one I recall first being canvassed twenty years ago, through the work of the Australian National Training Authority.
As the sector takes a fresh look at it, the key question will be the scope of learning recorded in the passport. That is, will the passport only record a person’s formal studies? And if so, then presumably it is a relatively easy straightforward exercise to build a ‘passport’ which is essentially a record of achievements linked to an individual’s Unique Student Identifier.
On the other hand, if the passport is going to record other forms of non-accredited learning (as the Universities Accord Panel suggested in their Interim Report)– then are we potentially biting off more than we can chew…?
Research from the US gives some size of the magnitude of the challenge ahead. In 2022, the non-profit Credential Institute counted almost 1.1 million unique credentials in the US, with two-thirds being offered by non-academic providers.
Collectively the US landscape for educational credentials comprises:
- 350,412 offered by postsecondary institutions awarding degrees and certificates
- 13,014 available from MOOC providers in the form of course completion certificates, microcredentials and online degrees from overseas universities
- 656,753 issued by non-academic providers including badges, course completion certificates, licenses, certificates (note that this category also includes apprenticeships – which in Australia we would obviously include in the ‘postsecondary’ category), and
- 56,179 from secondary schools, including diplomas, alternative certificates and high school equivalency diplomas.
Particularly relevant for the officials working on the proposed Australian National Skills Passport is the changes in credentials in different categories between 2021 and 2022: the number of unique credentials offered in US post-secondary institutions fell by 9,300, while those offered by non-academic providers increased by more than 107,000.
If we assume that there are reasonable similarities between the US and Australian credentials’ landscapes – then it seems likely that the task of an Australian Skills Passport will be predominately focussed on collating and categorising non-academic credentials.
While officials contemplate the scope of the passport (and get feedback from stakeholders on this and other issues), the questions from the National Skills Passport Consultation Paper that education institutions (VET and higher education) need to be considering are:
- What systems do you operate or interact with that may be impacted by a National Skills Passport, and what systems would you like to see integrated?
- What challenges do you currently face aligning information and qualifications across VET and higher education? What do you need to overcome these challenges, and how could a National Skills Passport assist?
- Noting the different levels of data standard maturity between VET and higher education, would you see benefit in establishing a single data standard across the tertiary education system? If yes, what features would you expect to see in the data standard?
- Who would you expect to provide the validation? For example, would you expect qualifications to be validated by a university, Registered Training Organisation or regulating body, and skills verified by an employer or third party?
Consultations are open until 18 February 2024.