Degree-qualified workers demand recognition for prior learning and experience: Report

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While the majority of Australian workers with university degrees aren’t interested in formal learning, most could potentially change their mind if their prior experience and learning are formally recognised, according to Deloitte’s latest Higher Education report.

The report revealed four key factors that would incentivise this group to undertake formal learning:

  • recognition of prior learning and/or experience (RPL);
  • learning delivered at the workplace;
  • flexible assessment; and
  • options to pause and re-engage as needed.

Deloitte surveyed nearly 3,500 Australians who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree for their view on the skills required for their current and future jobs, and how they plan to equip themselves with these skills.

Deloitte’s National Education Lead Partner, Colette Rogers, said: “As a nation, we must continue to maintain and build the skills of our post-bachelor workers to support them in securing and sustaining quality employment. But to effectively do this, we need a culture of lifelong learning across industries and workforces.

“Our 2018 Higher Education survey explored the views and intentions of Australian workers in relation to further education. Our 2019 survey builds on this to explore the key factors that would encourage postgraduate learning, while supporting the development of effective strategies to strengthen the capabilities of our workforce through improved engagement with formal learning.”

58% of the respondents believe a formal certification helps demonstrate their capabilities to current or potential employers as part of the hiring or promotion decisions, yet 56% of post-bachelor workers aren’t interested in formal learning.

38% of workers believe formal learning isn’t required for the skills they need, while 37% cite the lack of time to study and 28% think further study is too expensive as reasons not to study.

However, 71% of workers surveyed could be persuaded to pursue further study if their prior experience or learning could be recognised as advanced credit in order to reduce the amount of formal learning required.

Rogers added: “There is significant scope to improve the awareness and application of RPL, as well as the value of formal learning to Australian workers. Recognising existing skills is an important way of encouraging lifelong formal learning. Both employers and education providers have a crucial role in working together to provide on-the-job learning activities and skills certification.

“RPL processes should be streamlined so education providers can more easily credit learners for their existing skills and knowledge. However, we need to ensure the credit assessment and award processes are quality assured to protect the integrity of Australian qualifications and certifications.”

Four key recommendations:

1.  ‘Credit where credit is due’: Recognise prior learning and experience to fast-track completion

  • Improve access to RPL through clear information and greater access to academic credit, where appropriate; and
  • Develop robust quality-assured mechanisms to assess and credit competencies developed through prior experience.

2. ‘My pace, my place’: Enable workers to learn where, when and how they live

  • Provide flexibility that enables learners to engage, take a break, pick up again, and submit assessments when it suits other work and life commitments, where feasible; and
  • Deliver learning at places convenient to learners, including where they work, supported by employer and provider partnerships that retain and upskill talent at scale.

3. ‘Stack and pack’: Provide micro-learning options that can stack

  • Provide short courses and postgraduate qualifications or short courses that stack towards qualifications; and
  • Provide credit or recognition that learners can bank until they need it, or enable them to intermit when life takes unexpected turns.

4. ‘Show the value’: Educate workers on the value and advantages of formal learning in a changing world

  • Educate workers on the labour market, employer needs for specific skills, and the return-on-investment for further formal learning; and
  • Promote the quality, standards and industry credibility of further formal learning that leads to career advantage.