Certifications Facilitate Skills-Based Hiring

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It’s no secret that industries around the world continue to struggle to fill open positions. Despite the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, industries such as manufacturing still need more highly-skilled workers than they can find.

What’s going on? Experts point to the ongoing “skills gap” issue that has plagued industries for years now. With the implementation of a wide variety of new advanced automation technologies, industry needs workers with more advanced technical skills than ever before. But where are they?

The supply of such workers continues to lag far behind demand, creating the shortages we’re seeing today. To combat these issues, many industries are making bold moves to find a solution. One trend gaining momentum is a new focus on skills-based hiring, which has led many employers to ditch advanced degree requirements in favor of searching for workers with the particular skills they need.

A switch to a skills-based hiring model isn’t necessarily intuitive for many industries that have always relied upon traditional four-year-degree requirements as a proxy for qualified applicants. Those making the switch, however, have found an easy way to help find workers with the skills they need: industry-standard certifications.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the move toward skills-based hiring. We’ll also dive into how industry-standard certifications make it easier for employers to feel confident that the workers they’re hiring have the skills they need to hit the ground running. Finally, we’ll explain how the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) has assembled a comprehensive set of industry-standard certifications and micro-credentials that can help any employer hire workers with the advanced technical skills they’ll need to thrive in the modern industrial workplace.

The Move to Skills-Based Hiring

For years, secondary schools have pushed students toward traditional four-year degrees. Why? That’s what employers have traditionally required to get hired. If you looked at job listings before the pandemic hit, you’d see listing after listing that included a requirement of some type of four-year degree.

Today, however, the hiring landscape is slowly changing. The number of open positions and the lack of highly-skilled workers to fill them have forced industries across the country to reevaluate their hiring practices.

According to a ComputerWorld article, many employers are finally realizing their degree requirements have been hindering their hiring efforts. The article notes:

“Among middle-skilled occupations, the openings that require college degrees are, for the most part, similar to those openings for which no degree is required, according to a recent study by Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Project on Managing the Future of Work and the Burning Glass Institute. ‘Jobs do not require four-year college degrees. Employers do,’ the study said. That realization is prompting companies to consider a shift in hiring practices that recognizes the nontraditional paths many have taken to develop technology skills — paths that don’t require a degree.”

The article also notes that the shift to skills-based hiring has begun to take off in the information technology sector: “with a 2% unemployment rate, the tech industry is rethinking what job applicants need to get hired. Skills-based hiring is on the rise, and 59% of employers are considering eliminating college degree requirements — changes that could reshape the IT workforce.”

What about the world beyond IT? According to a Harvard Business Review article, “employers are indeed resetting degree requirements in a wide variety of roles. The change is most noticeable for middle-skill positions — defined as those requiring some post-secondary education or training but less than a four-year degree.”

The Harvard Business Review article concludes: “[i]n evaluating job applicants, employers are suspending the use of degree completion as a proxy and instead now favor hiring on the basis of demonstrated skills and competencies. This shift to skills-based hiring will open opportunities to a large population of potential employees who in recent years have often been excluded from consideration because of degree inflation.”

The Role of Certifications in Skills-Based Hiring

If you’re a human resources professional, the obvious question you might be asking is: “how can I ensure candidates possess the skills needed if they don’t have a four-year degree?” This is a valid question, because most employers aren’t necessarily equipped to assess a candidate’s skill levels on their own.

If only there was a way for candidates to prove to prospective employers that they have the skills needed to be successful. We’re joking, of course, because candidates have been using industry-standard certifications to do exactly that for years now.

A wide variety of industry-standard certifications exist that certify that prospective workers possess the knowledge and, in many cases, proven hands-on skills in a particular area. Certifications come in many shapes and sizes, from micro-credentials that certify expertise in a narrow subject-matter area to more robust certifications that encompass a wide range of skills, such as all the necessary skills involved in industrial maintenance.

As skills-based hiring becomes more popular, it will be necessary for employers to become more familiar with the variety of certifications and credentials available to evidence the skills they seek. It will also be critical for educators and industries to work together to promote and encourage alternative credentialing.

A Deloitte report echoes this need:

“Alternative credentialing can encourage reskilling amid rapidly evolving technology. The shrinking shelf-life of digital skills requires continuous reskilling. Employers desire tracking and verification of those skills. As a result, the job market increasingly calls on training providers and academic institutions to offer “credentialized” records of learning and mastery. Rather than relying heavily on two- and four-year degrees, skill-specific microcredentials, digital badges, or certificates specify the exact technologies an applicant has mastered. This simplifies career shifts and employee selection, making labor markets more efficient.”

Fortunately, many economic and workforce development organizations around the country are already focusing more on certifications. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “[t]o better their workforces and provide additional economic opportunities to those who need it most, many states have put a focus on expanding postsecondary options for adult learners. These opportunities range from promoting career and technical education to expanding nondegree credentialing options.”

How SACA Certifications Facilitate Skills-Based Hiring

For companies looking for highly-skilled individuals to fill open positions, a good place to start is searching for prospective workers with certifications or micro-credentials from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance. SACA sits at the forefront of the effort to certify students and workers who demonstrate the required knowledge and hands-on smart automation skills employers so desperately need.

SACA’s certifications were developed in conjunction with industry partners who could speak from experience about their needs when it comes to workers able to work alongside a variety of advanced automation technologies. For example, SACA offers certifications in many key areas for a variety of industries, including basic to advanced operations; robot systems; and IIoT, networking, and data analytics.

SACA also offers specialist certifications, as well as micro-credentials, related to a variety of in-demand skills for systems such as automation, electrical, mechanical, fluid power, controls, and instrumentation. SACA’s certifications come in two forms: silver certifications are earned upon passing a knowledge exam and gold certifications are earned upon passing a hands-on skills test.

For workers, SACA certifications can help market their smart automation skills to potential employers. For those employers, SACA certifications represent confirmation that a worker has the skills to hit the ground running in the workplace.

To learn more about Industry 4.0 certifications and how SACA can help both future workers and industrial employers begin the task of bridging the Industry 4.0 skills gap, contact SACA for more information.

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.