Learner-Focused, Industry-Led, Government-Enabled

Organising micro-credentials a priority for Food and Fibre sector

Establishing a framework for short courses in the Food and Fibre sector is the aim of a project seeking to present learners with a cohesive offering of micro-credentials based on an agreed definition amongst industry.

The project is being led by Dairy Training, the Food and Fibre Centre for Vocational Excellence (FFCoVE) and Scarlatti, a research and analytics company, in conjunction with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). In 2018, NZQA began approving a number of micro-credentials, or short courses of formal learning, in the sector.

Mel Escott, Research Manager for Scarlatti and project manager, says that before micro-credentials started being approved, the sector’s focus had been on qualifications that took longer to get.

“NZQA responded to a very real need for short pieces of learning. There are a number of reasons why they are popular, one of them being that people are time-poor.”

“As a sector we were very excited to be able to put together these short packages and it was good to see them being offered. However  the worry within the food and fibre sector was that if we did not talk to each other and work out what was needed, there would be duplication.”

“This project came out of that need to have a coordinated or systems approach to how we develop these micro-credentials.”

Jackie Lynch, the Portfolio Manager for FFCoVE agrees, saying the project began as a stocktake of what micro-credentials were on offer.

“NZQA defines a micro-credential as anything below 40 credits and we found that there were a couple of hundred such courses out there.”

Jackie says one of the aims is to enable micro-credentials to be stacked so that they can add up to a bigger qualification.

“We are working with NZQA on this because we believe it is important for all those micro credentials to actually count towards something. It makes sense that if someone in an industry has done a whole lot of short courses, that they be able to use those as credits to a bigger qualification.”

Jackie says that NZQA is prepared to look at this issue on a case-by-case basis.

“We are looking at stackability and shareability as well. There are a lot of Private Training Establishments (PTEs)  and ITPs who own good micro-credentials, but we want them delivered nation-wide. We need to work through the issue of IP ownership.”

Mel says a stakeholder group from the food and fibre sector had been set up, with representatives from provider organisations, industry members, the Workforce Development Council Muka Tangata, FFCove, Dairy Training, Primary ITO and NZQA.

“The stocktake was of all the short courses that existed across the sector, including formal programmes of learnings, courses registered through NZQA, or even just little workshops or badges offered. Having this knowledge is important for the stakeholder group to be able to discuss how to move forward.”

“One of our key work areas is trying to work out what the value for learners is in having the badges or micro-credentials. How do you get learners, their employees and the industry to value them? If someone turns up to your farm, the employer needs to be able to recognise what it is and what it means.”

“There is work to be done in creating a system where we have that kind of recognition and buy in across different people in the sector.”

“Staircasing the short courses together to create something bigger is important. How do we use that as an incentive for people to keep on learning to add these micro-credentials into bigger qualifications?”

Jackie says there are many micro-credentials available, with the most popular ones being machinery-related, but leadership courses were also very popular.

Mel says the project is about halfway through.

“We are now focussed on agreeing on principles on how to use micro credentials and when to use them and to start talking about badging concepts.

26 May 2022