Companies’ current recruitment processes still favor qualifications over competences, since the latter are more difficult to verify. While a diploma or certification attests to a level acquired and validated at a given moment, it may not be an accurate snapshot of that same person’s skills a few years later. However today soft and hard skills are at the heart of the challenges of initial and continuing training, in particular since recently introduced legislation has emphasized the importance of such skill sets in professional certifications relating to vocational training and employment areas.

Competences are representative of the development of an individual’s knowledge and know-how during their professional or university career. As such, they are a reflection of the breadth and depth of a course, and the informal skills developed while undertaking it. In a world of innovation, where knowledge evolves as quickly as it becomes obsolete, the certification of skills can be problematic not only in terms of applicability and standardization, but also of validity. Those problems can be addressed through innovations, such as blockchain technology, which introduces unprecedented reliability in skills certification. 

The development of this technology, does indeed promise a revolutionary new skills passport, which can detail personal and specific school assessments, in-person and online learning courses, career development experience, industry and technical qualifications, hospitality and food industry assessments, and so on.

How can blockchain tech help you certify and authenticate your skills throughout your professional life?

When you start to find your feet in school, you want to know that every class you complete and every exam you take will matter, not merely to graduate, but also in the corporate world. After graduation, you will want to make sure that once you apply for a position you are interested in, the management will consider all of the information you can provide, from education to experience.

No matter which industry you are interested in, whether it’s the food industry, hospitality tourism or management, employers will need to get an idea of your area of expertise. Are you proficient in text analysis, staff management or risk assessment? Are you good at maintaining safety standards, working with a team or solving technical issues? And how do you compare to other potential workers?

Such information usually appears on your resume, which employers have to take at face value. But what if there was a system, like the European-wide Europass Curriculum Vitae, that standardized the way that workers’ assessments are taken into account by employers?

What if there was an automatic system that, like the European Eures Portal, could match the balance of every personal assessment completed by an individual with job vacancies and employment databases.

Systems like the European initiatives of Europass and Eures, and others as far afield as Australia and Singapore, naturally rely on the authenticity, reliability and durability of the data they leverage. However, this data, even in the Europass or Eures system, may be easily falsified, expire or be deleted. As a consequence, reliable candidates may find themselves with expired or lost documents, competing against applicants that lie in interviews, and present HR with a sample of falsified documents.

When it comes to finding a certification passport, blockchain tech offers the solution in an online, encrypted, permanently consultable, unhackable, counterfeit-proof, passport-like history of every class, learning or work assessment, technical ability or high competence. Via an account and login, both job seeker and employer can verify the relevance of a work history within a particular industry, whichever it is: hospitality, tourism, heavy industry, engineering, ICT, and so on. Therefore, through simply logging into the platform, whoever needs to assess your competence in a specific domain can do so in a safe and trustworthy way. 

What is a skill set?

On September 5, 2019, a French law text entitled “For the freedom to choose your professional future” indicated that professional certifications must be divided into well-defined skill sets. 

These are defined as “homogeneous and coherent sets of skills that contribute to the autonomous exercise of a professional activity, and can be assessed and validated” (Labor Code), and are registered in the National Register of Professional Certifications (RNCP), or the Specific Register (RS) of Certifications and Authorizations. Such skill sets can cover diverse industries, from hospitality and tourism right to management.

The encoded skill sets represent a major challenge for professional disciplines, and training organizations, companies, and anyone in need to issue professional certifications, since they must correspond with a sample of the abilities in demand for the professional activities to which they apply. While defining the various skill sets has been a great challenge, it is also a major project for organizations. Indeed, these organizations must resolve, with adequate tools, the issues of the traceability and durability of qualifications.

What are the technological challenges for institutions?

The skill sets have been introduced in order to promote the employability of people looking for work and to boost the value of certified abilities in professional life. The French Ministry of Education’s roadmap is clear: certification of the skill sets must be fully traceable, and usable throughout life.

Thus, adding to the challenge of modularizing professional certifications, all entities that issue certifications have to face a technological challenge. To comply with the Ministry’s requirements, organizations must: 

  • Equip themselves with tools that guarantee the validity of certifications over the long term;
  • Allow the transferability of a skill set validated in one training course to other training courses;
  • Capitalize on and accumulate skill sets throughout courses combining initial training, professional experience and continuing education;
  • Guarantee the full traceability of the course and all of its information. 

(source: French Ministry of Education)

It is, therefore, a question of providing learners with long-lasting, easily verifiable, and traceable certificates of competence, or in other words, the exact requirements met by new digital technology. 

Micro-credentials for validating skills

The abilities defined in the skill sets are also the focus of human resources departments of companies seeking to recruit competent professionals and develop the competences of employees to help them grow in their professional lives. However, unlike with degree and diploma certificates, it is often hard to attest to a given skill on paper, since skills may be less defined, directly verifiable or reliable.

It is for this precise reason that micro-credentials, or micro-certifications, have been created as a way to promote, certify and officially recognize very specific skills. The concept of micro-credentials emerged at the same time as a skills deficit appeared in the wake of new technologies, and quickly took the form of digital certificates, obtained through massive open online courses (MOOCs) or issued by professional bodies, and which can be shared via digital media. 

Micro-credentials can be applied to skill sets too. Each skill set acquired by the learner can be certified throughout the followed course by detailing its scope, associated objectives, and skills, and the means used by the learner to attain them. As soon as the learner validates his or her complete course, certification or diploma, he or she will receive a login to download a passport-like final digital diploma certificate attesting to all of the skills acquired.

It is the official nature of the institutions issuing micro-credentials that guarantees the authenticity of the instantly verifiable information. Indeed, it is just like an ordinary passport!

Why does blockchain make such certificates more reliable?

But, first of all, what is blockchain anyway? The blockchain is a decentralized database that stores information securely and transparently. 

Decentralization is important because it means the blockchain database can be consulted in an encrypted manner by all of its users. The users are connected in a network and all have simultaneous access to a register containing all the database data. There is, therefore, no centralized controlling body, since blockchain technology works thanks to its own users, without the need for any intermediary. 

Blockchain does not need a trusted independent third-party either, because it is inherently secure. Data is written irreversibly in an encrypted “block”, which is impossible to modify or erase. This is why we talk of the immutability of the blockchain. It is only possible to add information by creating a new block on the chain. Any falsification by a would-be hacker is immediately detectable, and the spurious data block can, therefore, be declared as invalid in the database.

This makes digital micro-credentials stored on the blockchain impossible to modify or falsify. Documents, text and data are thus more reliable, since, by nature, blockchain technology allows for the completely secure storage of information.

100% traceable skills, thanks to blockchain

Due to the transparency of blockchain technology, the skills listed on the micro-credentials blockchain are fully traceable.

Thus, a learner (whether a student or professional) can easily certify the authenticity of the institution issuing the micro-credential, or micro-certification, the date of issue, and the criteria and proof of acquisition of the skill. 

The blockchain thus becomes a tool for guaranteeing validated blocks over the long term, and allowing for a traceable, secure, and inviolable skills acquisition process.

A lasting digital skills passport throughout your working life

The emergence of new technologies has led to a deficit of digital skills, and a need to start to come back to learning and acquiring new skills much more frequently. Faced with the continuing development of existing technologies and the constant emergence of new technologies, as well as new standards and safety regulations, companies must ensure the continuous training of their employees, to keep them up-to-date and proficient in their activities. 

The data stored on the blockchain is totally durable over time. The skills listed by micro-credentials cannot be altered, and, therefore, can accompany learners throughout their lives. With no expiry date! In the business world, employees can demonstrate their mastery of new skills by acquiring new micro-credentials. It is a truly reliable and flexible system that ensures skills qualifications are universally recognized. 

We can, therefore, say that the blockchain and the micro-credentials based on this technology constitute a new digital passport for skills. They are: more reliable – since they cannot be forged ; accessible everywhere; shareable anywhere; and, above all, lasting throughout the life-time and careers of those who have acquired them.