Some recent trends and highlights.

  • Explosive growth in online learning platforms. The market will increase from $107 Billion in 2015 to $325 Billion in 2025. Skills Based Approach is well suited for a digital classroom.
  • (Higher) Skills Gap for jobs requiring a college degree. Employers say students do not have the required skills. According to a Gallup survey: companies 33% disagree and 34% are neutral to the statement higher education graduates have the skills my ‘business needs’.
  • (Middle) Skills Gap for jobs requiring less than a college degree. According to the National Skills Coalition’s analysis of BLS 2015 data, “middle-skill jobs account for 53% of United States’ labor market, but only 43% of the country’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level”.
  • New programs to build skills more effectively and efficiently. There are: extended education programs where schools are aligned with companies (like P-Tech); boot camps (such as coding camps); traditional and new-age apprenticeships; micro-credentials and nano-degrees; and direct paths to certifications.
  • Competency based learning programs. Many higher education institutions are transitioning from degrees based on credit hours to competencies.
  • Progress with Common Core and NGSS standards in K-12. Learning standards create transparency and anchor learning expectations. Most states have adopted Common Core; some have replaced them with their own variant. Regardless, states are adopting learning standards based on foundation skills.
  • Gamification – learning by applying skills- is more common in classrooms and offices alike. It had a market value of $2 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $20.9 billion in 2026.
  • Badging. Students and professionals are using digital badges to validate their skills.

Ways to make Skills-Based Approach more effective.

All courses in K-16 education should explicitly state learning expectations in skills on a task level. All skills should be represented even if they are not the focal point of the task, particularly foundational thinking and soft skills. Students should play a participatory role and always be aware of what skills they are learning.

Skills LabelTM is an application to track the development of skills, their underlying methods and applications, and standards (if relevant) at a task level (as a learning label – figure 2). It is a display meant to be understood by all participants. Skills SyllabiSM tracks learning on a course level and can contain a collection of learning labels.

There should be a universal list of skills definitions – something professionals and practitioners access to understand the meaning of a skill. A universal list of skills also makes sense for recruiters searching on skills; they need to be confident that their search results encompass the right pool of candidates. Furthermore, there needs to be a universal method of assigning skills. Currently, there is no clear way to handle specific technologies.

In the industry, LinkedIn has the most comprehensive list of skills – numbering 50,000 according to a recent publication; though, it is not easy to access them as a data set. Skills Culture (a search), Skills Based Approach and Skills Label share the same database of skills. To get deeper, the database matches skills with their underlying methods and applications and learning standards. The current database of skills is not complete but is meant to grow naturally through usage.

The demand for skills should be tracked. Rapid changes in technology and demographics are affecting the responsibilities for different careers, professionals must adapt and retool their skill sets to accommodate these changes. Therefore, it makes sense to publish the current and future demand for skills. Professionals target developing a skill set that will be in high demand and increase their chances of landing an opportunity.

According to the 2018 Future of Jobs report, there is growing skills instability; the average skills stability is fifty-eight percent from the 2018 to 2022 period. This means the shelf life of forty-two percent of required skills expires in less than five years. Students and workers must track their learning of skills throughout their education and career. To accomplish this, there is a suite of applications: Skills Based Approach is the methodology; Skills Label is the system; and Skill Culture is the mindset.

Skills sets should be ported from one platform to another. Currently, it is a requirement to maintain a skill set on different platforms because each of them is proprietary. The main disadvantage is redundancy and inefficiency. It would be ideal to build one skill set list that can be effectively used across platforms.

In the Skills Based Approach application, users have a current skill set that shows how much time is dedicated towards learning the skill and what stages the user is working on with each skill (figure 1). Skills Label has an emblem for each skill (figure 3), which shows how much learning has taken place cumulatively with a list of the tasks a user has queued and completed.