Micocredentials – preparing school students for life after graduation

Microcredential programs are a way that secondary schools can help their students build key skills and knowledge to thrive in study or work after they graduate. These short courses are typically on offer from, or developed in partnership with, external institutions such as universities.

‘Microcredentials are a quick, easy and affordable way to upskill and provide professional and “soft skill” development for young people entering the workforce or embarking on further education,’ Brendan Begley, Deputy Principal at Queensland’s Cairns State High School (CSHS) tells Teacher.

‘They also provide an opportunity for a “taster” into different disciplines before committing to longer term study options, and in some instances may offer a credit pathway to further study.’

It’s for those reasons that CSHS decided to pilot its own microcredential program in 2023, in partnership with CQUniversity.

‘[We] were interested in providing opportunities for our current year 12 cohort to gain additional employment/workplace/study skills to take with them as part of their portfolio on graduation,’ Begley explains.

Working in collaboration with staff from the Centre for Professional Development at CQUniversity, 5 microcredentials developed by CQUniversity were selected for the year 12 cohort to complete. The microcredentials were chosen by a team of CSHS staff – including administration staff, guidance officers, and year coordinators – based on the students’ identified needs. These needs included building confidence in academic writing (in preparation for future study) and developing work-ready skills in students that had no prior work experience.

As part of discussions that arose, it was decided that these courses would also be extended to the recently graduated class of 2022, while a modified program would be offered to the year 11 cohort – one that was more focused on skills that would benefit them while still at school, such as public speaking, study habits and note taking.

All students in these cohorts were automatically enrolled (around 750 in total) while Connect Teachers (at CSHS, Connect Teachers help foster a sense of belonging, connecting students and parents with services, activities and more) were enrolled as ‘non-editing teachers’, allowing them to monitor progress and provide support to students who needed it.

Of the students that took up one or more of the options on offer, most successfully completed the microcredential courses selected, and feedback on the program from these students was positive. However, Begley says not all students enrolled actually took up the opportunity ­– something the CSHS is keen to improve in future.

‘Our goal was for 75% of students to complete 2-3 micro credentials from the 5 options on offer,’ he says. This goal wasn’t met, in part due to certain barriers, like the need to access particular IT resources not available for use in the Department of Education (meaning students would need to work independently at home).

‘We would have expected greater completion if students had been supervised and supported to complete these qualifications whilst at school,’ Begley reflects.

While the team at CSHS see a positive future and plenty of potential in microcredential programs at the school, funding for the program came through subject fees from parents and carers and cost-of-living pressures mean the the program has been paused for 2024. The plus, Begley says, is that this allows time for some reflection, with the program planned to return in 2025, even better than before.

Does your school utilise community resources and develop external partnerships to provide greater learning opportunities for your students? How might you better utilise external partnerships?

Think about what professional skills students may benefit from knowing once they leave school. Are you developing those areas?