Credentials are the new currency. With traditional education’s attractiveness fading, more people are opting for continuous life-learning. According to Pew Research Center, 73% of American adults qualify themselves as lifelong learners both in the personal and professional fields.
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms like Coursera, Udemy, EdX and others have evolved as a place to extend the knowledge of workers hoping to take advantage of opportunities that may not have existed even five years ago. Universities now offer Lifelong learning courses similar to the full assembly of courses offered by the University of California, Irvine (UCI) continuing education program. Government agencies like Barcelona Activa, from the City of Barcelona, Spain, offer courses to students and businesses that would like to top up their technical and business skills. And professional certification in virtually every industry is more and more important in a world filled with compliance restrictions.
And yet despite this ubiquitous strive for knowledge and skills employers still have a hard time finding the right workers. The recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more that than 6.5 million jobs remain unfilled because employers fail to acquire workers with the necessary skills. In fact, 40% of American employers cannot find people even for entry-level jobs, according to a study conducted by McKinsey& Company.
Why does this skills gap exist? Could it be that part of the problem is that employers are oblivious to their own employees’ skills? Is there a way for employers to know who actually have what skills? Can this information be easily and immediately verified from trusted sources?
This is really a challenge for HR departments. LinkedIn is a quick “go to” source. But there is no verification of information posted on professional profiles. It’s quite easy for anyone to say that they graduated with a Harvard MBA and ask their friends to endorse them. HR departments can also track information from resumes in an ERP system like SAP, but this information is normally not updated with latest skills earned by the employee after employment through continued learning activities. Also, hiring managers within the organization normally will have no or limited visibility of this information captured in these HR data silos. Imagine wanting to build a new team that requires skills like Blockchain and AI? Besides posting the job request and hoping qualified candidates respond, wouldn’t it be nice if Hiring Managers could just search and find qualified candidates already within the enterprise where their skills information is up to day and already verified?
Is there a way to accomplish this? Blockchain, also known as the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), is a solid solution. The technology came into the spotlight after Bitcoin’s dramatic price spike in 2017. And while the cryptocurrency market has slumped, interest toward blockchain has not faded due to its decentralized nature, immutability, and transparency for different stakeholders. Even though much of the discussion about blockchain has been about payments and cryptocurrency there is a vast amount of non-crypto use cases and immediate value that blockchain provides. It produces and stores tamper-proof transactions and unlike other systems, blockchain does not have a single point of failure, which makes DLT safer and more resistant to attacks than other technologies present on the current market. It also entails multi-party authentication meaning that all parties have to verify the information issued on the blockchain. Combined these advantages could help enterprises to track skills within organizations immensely. Providing trusted skills traceability is one application of blockchain that can have immediate time and cost savings for the enterprise. This technology is available today, not years from now, and is being used by organizations.
To grasp how it works, let’s take an example of , a service which issues digital wallets with blockchain certificates and badges for the verified courses completed by their recipients. Let’s say an employee graduates with a bachelor’s degree. The university s/he attended will issue a corresponding diploma. But it will not be using traditional means of printing it on a piece of paper. Instead, the diploma will be posted on the blockchain where it will be permanently and securely stored. The graduate can now electronically present this diploma to an employer who can automatically verify its authenticity, as DLT provides detailed and tamper-proof information about the issuer, holder, and verifiers.
Then let’s imagine that the same person, who is now working at an organization, takes various courses mandated by the HR department as well as other internal development courses and completes them. Once again, the badges and certificates they earn are issued to his/her digital wallet storing the information on the blockchain. The same applies, if that person takes a course at a local university or on an online course. The credential is verified and posted to the blockchain by the issuer of the certificate. The badges and certificates from the various issuers are stored in the individual’s digital wallet on the blockchain. In all cases the person controls these stackable credentials and can be shared (or not shared) by the recipient of the credentials.
Employers that use this system can now surface skills across the entire enterprise easily. This is a major advantage, as most of the time the HR department would probably pass over the employee whose achievements often remain unknown to the organization. But now it’s easier to identify and promote employees that invested in continuing their careers with lifelong learning. Moreover, the managers can even mentor and nurture employees on a learning track making them qualified for higher positions at a later time.
The professional credentials, certifications, development courses, and other earned skills and certifications available in the digital wallet can also be used outside the organization and shared on social media or with prospective employers and recruiters. The choice is yours. What makes it even more convenient is that foreign students can easily prove education credentials even if they seek jobs across the world because the information is globally available on the blockchain and cannot be faked. Thus, skills providers are verified; recipients are verified; skills certification is verified and is immutable on the blockchain.
Naturgy, a $20 billion transnational natural gas and utilities company based in Spain with over 10,000,000 energy clients worldwide and over 18,000 employees, showcases how certification on blockchain works in real-life. Usually, specific employees at such companies require special certification which is issued by a corresponding agency. In Naturgy’s case it is the Spanish Certification Gas Agency Sedigas which is also its trusted partner, as they are both linked on the blockchain platform. While Sedigas publishes certificates to professionals who pass their certification, Naturgy hires them and uses the same blockchain technology to issue identification badges to these employees based on their verified certification. The employees, in turn, receive both the certification and the identification badge on the blockchain in their universal digital wallet which they control and can share with anyone. In-built smart contracts are used to automatically expire the certificates making it necessary for the employee to be re-certified upon the expiration period. This is very important for Naturgy because having an employee working with gas pipes with a fraudulent or expired certification could entail an important liability exposure if there is an accident such as an explosion. This risk is now being minimized with blockchain technology.
Another great example is Barcelona Activa, a government agency from the City of Barcelona. They have an IT Academy for educating professionals willing to improve their technical and business skills. Once the education track is defined on the blockchain and the courses are completed, badges are automatically issued to the student on the blockchain. This makes life significantly easier for the graduates, as they can use their digital wallet to prove that they successfully completed the coursework to their manager and thus create opportunities for themselves. Employers, on the other hand, will have confidence in the authenticity of the credentials regardless of geographical location. The digital certificates and badges include a lot more information that just a certificate title and graduation date. The information included in the digital certificate includes: verified issuer of the certificate with links back to the issuer website, verified transaction information that can be verified on the blockchain, details about the achievement, verifiers of the certificate, criteria that was achieved to earn the certificate and other details; giving the education provider the ability to share important details about the course. Recruiter and employers that these certificates are shared with can have more information in real time than is possible today.
Thus, blockchain’s potential in skills tracking is tremendous. The technology which is immutable and safe fosters trust between multiple stakeholders and helps avoid fraudulent credentials. It is a fast and efficient method of uncovering, examining, and verifying the employees’ credentials that can be used by HR offices and educators across the globe. Therefore, employers interested in filling the next job position may not have such a hard time after all. The most qualified candidate might be sitting in the cube down the hall. You just need the right tools to track and identify who that is.
By Rohan Hall
I am Co-Founder of Vottun – a blockchain traceability company, a published author and public speaker with over 30 years technology experience with Fortune 500 organizations and startups. I am passionate about the impact that blockchain could have on our future.