In the spirit of lifelong learning, let’s add a new word to our vocabulary:
Skillify (verb) – to translate curricular content (e.g. course descriptions or syllabi) into the skill-based language of the modern labor market.
In practical terms, “skillifying” your curriculum means identifying the work-relevant skills that you already teach, in the courses you already offer, and surfacing those skills to faculty, students, and other stakeholders.
Why it’s time to skillify
Among employers and job seekers, skills are already functioning as a shared language and currency. By viewing academic programs through this same lens, institutions can join the conversation and leverage the unique advantages of skill data.
Read on to see four examples of how this approach can unlock innovation and help higher education thrive in the modern skill-based economy.
Four key advantages of a skillified curriculum
1) Better align programs with market needs
Because skills are a shared language, articulating your curriculum in these terms allows for a more direct comparison with skill-based signals from the labor market. This means you can more efficiently assess the demand from employer job postings, the supply from professional profiles, and how your curriculum can fill the gaps between them.
Likewise, you’ll be able to offer more targeted curriculum that addresses these gaps at the skill level. For example, perhaps local employers are looking for data visualization skills and mentioning tools like Tableau or Power BI when posting for business analyst roles. If you know that you teach these skills in your existing Business Analyst degree program, you could unbundle the program by repackaging relevant courses into a data visualization certificate. The shorter, more focused credential may be a better fit for working professionals looking to upskill.
2) Better engage employers
It’s easier to be on the same page when you speak the same language. With a skillified curriculum, you’re better equipped to collaborate and proactively engage with industry partners, demonstrating how the skills taught in your curriculum can prepare future employees or provide upskilling and advancement opportunities for their current workforce.
Of course partnerships are a two-way street. With a skillified curriculum, you’ll have the structure in place to implement employer feedback on the skills that are most valuable to them, quickly and confidently pinpointing the courses that are best suited to integrate their suggestions.
3) Better market programs to students
Survey data continues to confirm that today’s learners are eager for education options that provide work-relevant skill training with a recognizable ROI for their career.
What better way to engage these learners, including many working adults, than by clearly articulating the skill-content embedded in your academic programs? A skillified curriculum can help you demonstrate to students that they don’t have to choose between a college degree and work-relevant training that translates to career value. They can have both.
A skills-denominated curriculum can also enhance your ability to show students how your courses align with their personal skill gaps. For example, the SkillsMatch platform allows learners to inventory their own skills (based on prior work and learning) and then auto-magically recommends the most relevant content from your program portfolio, based on the skills you teach.
4) Better equip students to market themselves
When colleges and employers are aligned, everybody wins – especially students. Not only is the curriculum itself more relevant to their career (see point #1, above), but they are also better equipped to articulate the skills they acquire through their education.
Much of this will happen organically as institutions make the skill-content of their courses more transparent to students. But colleges and universities can facilitate this process by formally connecting their courses to labor market skills.
For example, using an integration with Canvas Badges (formerly Badgr), institutions can link their digital badges with machine-readable skill data from Lightcast's open skills library. This skill data connects seamlessly to real-time labor market insights including job posting trends, top companies posting, and related skills—all of which are available on public skill pages, like this one for Kubernetes. This gives learners, educators, and employers additional context to understand the labor market value of skills associated with a credential.
But digital badges aren’t the only option. Equipped with a skillified curriculum, educators can use that information to incorporate skills into transcripts, upload courses’ skill content to shared databases like Credential Engine, or participate in other Learning and Employment Record initiatives. The key first step for any approach is translating curriculum into the common language of skills.
This list is not comprehensive, but we hope it gets you thinking (and excited) about the possibilities of leveraging skill data to unlock value and accelerate growth at your institution. We are currently working with colleges, universities, and systems around the country to do just that, by mapping their curriculum to in-demand skills.
What to read next
This article is part of a series exploring how higher education can adapt and thrive in an increasingly skill-based economy. Check out additional articles below, or download the complete series (plus additional content) in ebook form.
If you’d like to discuss transforming your own institution with skills data, let us know. We’d love to learn about the work you’re doing and explore how our data can help.