Micro-credentials: Upskill without the need for full qualification

From October 2018, workers will be able to upskill with qualifications called micro-credentials.

Micro-credentials are stand-alone training products in a set of skills demanded by industry, and Education Minister Chris Hipkins said they're not to be confused with full and formal qualifications.

"Micro-credentials are a response to skill-driven shortages in the workplace," he explained.

"They're a response to looking at what kind of workforce we're going to need to deliver on the very significant commitments we've made in the building and construction area."

The commitments are in the name of KiwiBuild, which aims to build 1000 homes in the year to June 2019, 5000 the year after, 10,000 in the year to June 2020, and 12,000 every year after that.

Micro-credentials have been developed by NZQA and Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO). They will require between five and 40 credits and are likely to take between two months and a year to achieve.

BCITO CEO Warwick Quinn said these specialist skill-sets will be described as 'traineeships' rather than 'apprenticeships', and will be formally recognised in the NZQA framework.

"It means they're qualified to a national standard - they're understood by employers and they're aligned to an employer's needs much more than the current system," Mr Quinn said.

Wellington cabinetmaker Nick Kirk thinks it's a great idea because it'll specialise people in different trades. There will be a training cost, like there is for a full apprenticeship.

"We're waiting on TEC funding rules to see how that applies," he said.

But what about seasoned, qualified professionals?  How will they react to micro-qualifications?

"There's always going to be tension with those currently in the workforce and fully qualified, but there's always going to be a premium for those with a broader range of qualifications," Mr Hipkins said.

And it's not just building; micro-credentials are expected to address skills shortages across a number of sectors.

"This includes IT, where companies are crying out for coders and data analytics specialists; and agriculture and forestry, which is short of people able to use drone technology," Mr Hipkins said.

"Many things will still require a full and formal qualification. This is not about replacing the current qualifications system, this is a supplement."