Microcreds can turn volunteering activities into recognised skills

Pioneering a way to gain skills accreditation through volunteering could be transformational for communities and learners – especially the most disadvantaged

Pioneering a way to gain skills accreditation through volunteering could be transformational for communities and learners – especially the most disadvantaged

26 May 2024, 5:00

Micro-credentials are increasingly being recognised as an effective way to meet employers’ skills needs. But they offer much more than that, not least in terms of social value.

The idea that learners can build up sets of industry-relevant specialist skills through accredited ‘bitesize’ modules is pioneering. It provides the flexibility and agility needed in fast-moving sectors where technology is changing all the time and employers need adaptive training models.

But micro-credentials themselves have lots of scope to be adaptable, including in the social impact and enrichment space.

As partners in Good for Me Good for FE, our organisations are committed to generating social value. We know how deeply embedded colleges are in their local communities and the positive impact they have.

Through its social value ‘calculator’, Good for Me Good For FE has encouraged volunteering and fundraising activity at colleges across the country. Crucially, it has also helped demonstrate the monetary as well as social value of the additional support FE provides.

The value of volunteering is clear, not only for the people being supported but for those who give their time and effort. Research shows that helping others is good for mental health and wellbeing; indeed, this was a key driver in the development of Good for Me Good for FE.

But as educationalists, we also know volunteering provides immense value in the development of people’s key skills, behaviours and attitudes. These are all key to ensuring people are prepared for the world of work and successful careers.

The question is how we can better recognise and attach value to the skills developed through such activity so that volunteers can take them forward into the workplace.

We think the answer lies in micro-credentials. A first for the sector, this will involve exploring the creation of a suite of credentials linked to the skills that come from volunteering activity such as teamwork, collaboration and communication.

Formal recognition for volunteering could be hugely valuable

The potential benefits are far-reaching, not least because it could give us something tangible to measure alongside social value. We know that ‘what gets measured gets done’, so additional quantitative indicators strengthen our evidence base as to the impact this work is having.

Enrichment is a fundamental aspect of FE provision. Providing opportunities for students to gain recognition for their contributions and the skills they have developed while undertaking activities to support others is a natural extension of this.

This includes work experience, which we know is hugely beneficial. With high-quality placements so hard to come by, volunteering could play a much greater role – particularly if universally recognised credentials were attached.

For college students (and indeed staff), demonstrating skills beyond academic qualifications is essential in today’s competitive world. For those from disadvantaged backgrounds, this can be difficult to achieve – as so many activities come at a cost.

Gaining formal recognition for volunteering activities could be hugely valuable, reflecting a much wider skill set as well as commitment and passion for a cause.

Together, we are committed to driving the development of microcredentials. This includes a pilot project involving our two organisations, with plans to deliver 1000 accreditations.

But to do this effectively, we need to create a robust and credible framework for these bitesize credentials.

Volunteering activities are extremely varied. They comprise a broad range of learning outcomes, and ensuring consistency and validity will be a key challenge.

We want to work in partnership with colleges to help us build an innovative framework. This must accurately assess and demonstrate achievement in relation to essential skills like teamwork and communication, which are at the heart of volunteering.

We are excited about this work, which is the next step in our Good for Me Good for FE journey. It will harness the social impact and value that is already being generated in communities while strengthening the skills and qualifications of the people working hard to support others.

If your college is interested in contributing to the development work, we would love to hear from you.

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  1. Soon, every single transaction that occurs, from monetary spend to the acquisition of knowledge and skills will be quantified, certified and recorded, with the few raking a tiny margin on every transaction. Nothing that occurs outside of what is recorded will be recognised as having any value.

    The in-organic commoditisation of the human experience.

    The doom loop irony is the vast power hungry data centres required to record it all are undermining efforts to wean us off fossil energy.

    Is that worth a micro-credential?