The Learner Record’s Role in the Great Rehire Era

How the comprehensive learner record can help alleviate today’s talent shortage.

Welcome to the Great Rehire/Reskill era—where employers are looking for the right talent and the talent is looking for the right employer. Since April 2021, 4 million people have quit their jobs to find a “better” position in a new industry. And often, with a new role comes a need for a new skill set. Some are calling it “The Great Resignation”—as nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers are looking for a new job, according to a survey from PwC.

As of May 2021, there were 9.2 million job openings in the U.S; for every available worker, there are two job openings. The shortage of workers going back to open jobs was the biggest issue the economy faced this summer. Many employers are having a difficult time truly understanding what type of skills prospective hires have and if those skills align with a job position. On the flip side, the talent is having difficulty understanding how to articulate the skills they actually have and how to demonstrate to employers that they have mastered such skills.

We are at a pivotal moment in higher education—universities have a chance to spark a conversation around “competencies and skills,” because a letter grade does not tell us what a student knows and has learned. How can we capture whether a student has developed a core competency at graduation when there is no record of what they have learned beyond a college transcript? Where is the proof of what a job candidate knows? That’s where Comprehensive Learner Records (CLRs) have a chance to change the game.

The Missing Link Between Students, Talent, and the Job Market

The #1 benefit of a CLR is that it creates evidence that students and potential candidates acquired certain skills for the job market, so they can demonstrate what they bring to the table and be more marketable to employers. A CLR can be aligned to rubrics that a higher ed institution and employers use as learning standards, so students and employees understand where they stand in their level of learning, competency by competency; figure out where they have gaps; and determine what courses they can take to help close those gaps. By leveraging blockchain technology, universities and employers can ensure a secure ledger \ is keeping track of those competencies and skills. Upon graduation, students and potential candidates have evidence of what they know and an easy way to share their knowledge and skills with prospective employers.

CLRs are relatively new in higher education, and changes to any of our systems in education take a long time for wide-scale adoption. It is cumbersome for universities to acquire new software, and any new system needs to be easy to scale. For decades, higher ed institutions have relied on the student information system (SIS), learning management system (LMS), and other ingrained software systems that keep the learning engines running, but there is a huge need in the market for a scalable way for students to carry with them throughout their college and career journey a record that goes beyond the college transcript or resume to provide real evidence of knowledge and skills.

Breaking Down the Employability vs. Good Citizen Argument

Job boards are overwhelming. Many students aren’t even sure how to find job openings based on what they know or what skills they have acquired. For years, there has been an argument that college is not for job training. Some say the four-year college journey is about teaching students to be good citizens in the world—to think logically, and solve problems critically. I agree that this is a large benefit to the college experience.

In reality, neither party is right or wrong. They are both right. Universities already understand that students are more than a series of transcripts and grades. But now it’s time for that to play out in the real world.

What about that C-student who struggles in math but is amazing at learning languages and is captain of his ultimate frisbee team? How can that student demonstrate he has great leadership, listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, and a memory like an elephant? A college transcript and GPA simply cannot communicate evidence of those skills, but those skills would be a huge asset to hiring managers in multiple industries. A CLR creates fluency in a language that both universities and employers can understand.

What’s Next in the Learner Record Movement?

There is already a strong movement under way to advance the adoption of a secure, interoperable record of what a person has learned, their employment, and what skills they have acquired along the way.

“People often can’t communicate what they know in a meaningful way to employers. Yet employers, trying to find the right talent to fit their needs, rely on a person’s ability to communicate the value of their skills and experience.” —U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Herein lies the challenge!

The T3 Innovation Network, in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is exploring ways to standardize the collection and transfer of data about what a job seeker knows through technologies and standards. In essence, it is already working to evangelize the adoption of learning and employment records through a pilot program, started in 2020, where job seekers can share evidence of their knowledge and skills through a single, comprehensive learning and employment record (LER).

In addition, the IMS Global Learning Consortium has created the Comprehensive Learner Record Standard, a technical specification designed to support traditional academic programs, co-curricular and competency-based education, as well as employer-based learning and development, as a way to capture and communicate a learner’s and worker’s achievements in verifiable, digital form. The interoperable learner record is designed to be flexible, Web friendly, and easy to understand across learners, employers, workers, registrars, and district administrators.

The world is transforming at a rapid pace, and the pandemic has accelerated the need for students and jobseekers to reskill, upskill, and find ways to transfer these skills across industries and different roles. We need a paradigm shift, a move to focusing on competencies and skills rather than hours/credits and seat time. We need a shared, standard way to carry an evidence-driven digital record of knowledge verified by faculty, university requirements, and industry standards. That is how we will help to solve the knowledge and talent gap and ensure that students see the return on their investment in a college education.