The skills gap is one of the greatest challenges facing labor forces around the world. A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that more than 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled in the next three years as a result of AI-enabled automation.

In grappling with this daunting challenge, governments and the private sector alike have pushed a number of initiatives with varying degrees of success. One of the most popular has been coding bootcamps and other technical training programs that enable students to pursue careers in tech without having to complete a traditional four-year degree. At the same time, many of the world’s leading employers have eliminated degree requirements. At IBM alone, 15 percent of domestic hires in 2017 did not hold a university diploma.

Students themselves are also driving change by demanding self-sovereignty, control over their own educational data. and better evidence of a degree’s return on investment. For these reasons and more, demand for non-traditional “micro credentials” is on the rise.

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Now, a consortium of leading academic and professional organizations have launched a solution for learning credentials running on the IBM Blockchain Platform. Still in early development, the platform uses blockchain technology to produce a permanent, verifiable record of learning and skills certifications and qualifications. Job applicants will own their data and choose how, and with whom it is shared. This will enable job applicants to more seamlessly connect with companies, while helping employers more easily and reliably match and verify people’s skills with open jobs.

How blockchain is addressing a changing job market

The overall goal of the collaboration is to help reduce the skills gap by using a learning credential blockchain utility that streamlines the increasingly complex and inefficient talent marketplace. Job applicants today face a tangled web of career opportunities, and identifying pathways for advancement isn’t always easy. For employers, the need for specialized skillsets has made it harder than ever to find the right workers. It certainly doesn’t help that there are roughly 738,000 unique credentials in the U.S alone, and that 30 percent of organizations have uncovered instances of resume fraud.

The consortium aims to address these problems by creating a learning credential blockchain that allows for the development and sharing of tamper-evident, digital credentials. This will not only greatly mitigate the risk of resume fraud, but also make it significantly easier for companies to identify promising candidates and academic institutions to manage the huge increase in demand for learning credentials, while helping jobseekers more holistically chart their career trajectories.

The founding partners of the consortium represent a diverse range of academic and professional organizations:

  • The National Student Clearinghouse, a non-profit, is the U.S.’s leading source for academic verifications, reporting and other data-related services for more than 3,700 colleges and universities.
  • Central New Mexico Community College serves more than 23,500 students and is an early innovator in the learning credential blockchain space.
  • VetBloom by Ethos Veterinary Health is an innovative learning ecosystem for the veterinary profession, with more than 65,000 learners from hundreds of hospitals, universities and professional associations.

Blockchain-based credentialing in 2020

The consortium is continuing its work on a minimum viable product designed to serve the broader community of learning credential issuers and users with a key focus on interoperability and digital self-sovereignty. Moving forward into 2020, the consortium’s primary goals will be scaling the network by signing on additional participants, and fine-tuning an equitable administration and governance structure.

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