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Demand for Skill-Based Learning Outpacing Current Interest Levels

A recent study conducted by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) sheds light on the gap between the growing interest in skills- and competency-based learning and the actual implementation of these models in higher education institutions. The findings, released on Wednesday, reveal that while 86 percent of faculty and staff acknowledge the need for academic programs focusing on specific skills, only 22 percent report the implementation of a comprehensive competency-based framework across their institutions.

CAEL, a network comprising colleges and universities nationwide, emphasizes the importance of innovative collaboration between academic institutions and employers to establish effective pathways to employment. The study, conducted in collaboration with Modern Campus, a higher education technology company, and The EvoLLLution, a digital news and opinion platform sponsored by Modern Campus, aimed to assess the adoption of new digital tools designed to track student achievements in nontraditional learning models.

The survey, conducted between July and August 2023, garnered responses from 173 administrators, faculty, and staff representing 144 colleges and universities across various sectors. The study’s focus extended beyond mere interest in skills-based learning, delving into the utilization of comprehensive learning records (CLRs), which are verifiable and interoperable registrar systems. These systems recognize and document diverse forms of learning, including traditional courses, competency-based modules, and co-curricular and experiential learning programs.

Becky Klein-Collins, Vice President of Research and Impact at CAEL and co-author of the report, expressed her observations on the findings. Despite the heightened attention to skills-based hiring, she noted that higher education institutions may not be fully prepared to integrate into such an ecosystem. The study underscores the importance of having a skills- and competency-based framework in place for degrees and programs to effectively utilize CLRs.

In advocating for a more streamlined approach to skills-based learning, CAEL seeks to bridge the gap between interest and implementation. The study highlights the need for higher education institutions to embrace new models and collaborate with industry partners to better align education with workforce demands. As the discussion around skills-based learning continues to gain traction, the study suggests a potential shift in the education landscape toward more adaptive and relevant learning models.