COVID-19 and Brexit have emerged as two major challenges for Ireland in recent times with both expected to have a significant impact on the Irish economy and prospects for workers in a wide range of sectors across the country.
This evolving economic environment will require a flexible, skilled workforce, in turn, requiring education and training providers to develop new and innovative ways of offering responsive life-long learning and upskilling opportunities through short, enterprise-focussed courses such as micro-credentials.
Micro-credentials are units of assessment that are smaller than traditional programmes of learning such as degrees and diplomas. They demonstrate that a learner has mastered a certain skill-set or demonstrated a level of achievement in a particular area.
QQI, as an awarding body, acts to ensure that standards of knowledge, skill and competence are achieved before an award is made to a learner. Confidence in this process is essential for recruiters to identify the skill levels of applicants and assess their suitability for roles. QQI has been involved in approving micro-credential programmes and courses for several years, through Minor and Special Purpose Awards particularly in Further Education and Training. In recent months, QQI has put in place streamlined processes to validate very small Higher Education and Training programmes.
In December 2020, QQI's Programmes and Awards Executive Committee (PAEC) was pleased to approve some new micro-credential courses across a wide range of disciplines:
- Quality & Regulatory Practice in the Pharmaceutical Industry (Griffith College)
- Digital Communications & Customer Engagement (Griffith College)
- Software Development Fundamentals (NCI)
- Special Education (St Nicholas Montessori School)
- Creative Problem Solving and Action Learning (Open Training College)
- Project Management (Dorset College)
It is expected that this move towards more flexible life-long learning opportunities will grow in popularity amongst QQI Award providers responding to the National Skills Strategy.
In another area of work-based assessment, QQI approved the following apprenticeship programmes:
- Higher Certificate in Healthcare Support Practice (Griffith College)
- Certificate in Scaffolding (Laois & Offaly Education and Training Board)