Tempe businesses showed support for the benefits of microcredentials and the additional skills and training they provide the workforce, according to a report released by Rio Salado College and the Tempe Chamber of Commerce.

Microcredentials are stackable program credits and certificates that provide specialized career training and educational pathways so students and workers can learn new skills that lead directly to employment or job promotion.

When students are ready, these microcredentials can provide a pathway toward degree completion. Rio Salado is working with national and local employers to create these customized micro pathways.

“Microcredentials provide a flexible and effective pathway to employment, upskilling and reskilling, economic mobility and a thriving local economy,” said Rio Salado President Kate Smith.

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Recent reports nationwide show the emerging demand for microcredentials to fill a growing skills gap, including stories featured in EducationDynamics, Forbes and Bloomberg. Nearly 90 percent of the managers and executives who responded to McKinsey Global Survey indicate they are currently experiencing workforce skills gaps or expect to in the next few years.

When asked if their business was interested in offering microcredentials, nearly two-thirds of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce survey respondents replied affirmatively.

Microcredentials provide evidence students have demonstrated specific skills and competencies endorsed by the issuing institution. These credentials can cover a multitude of skills and are designed to be completed in 12 months or less. Rio Salado is working toward a goal to offer 23 new microcredential options by 2024 to meet the interest in upskilling the current workforce, as well as creating new opportunities for career starters or those who wish to re-invent and advance their career paths.

“The future growth of our local economy is dependent upon having a skilled workforce,” said Smith. “Businesses recognize that microcredential educational opportunities can focus on training employees to meet the ever-changing workplace needs. For job seekers, microcredentials provide a fast-track path to skill and competency development.”

Tempe employers who responded to the Rio Salado survey pointed to skills gaps in both hard and soft skills.

In the area of hard skills, the highest needs are in areas of sales and marketing operations, front line staff management, customer service, and information technology. In the area of soft skills, the highest needs are in the critical thinking areas such as communication, problem-solving, and leadership. These results mirror the national trends outlined by McKinsey and Company’s survey, which showed 40 percent of respondents cite critical thinking and decision making, along with leadership and managing others, as the employee skills areas needed. Information technology and basic digital skills are among the top 10 in the national survey, as well.

“The Tempe Chamber was proud to partner with Rio Salado College on this innovative survey to help identify how we can quickly upskill our workforce to align with industry needs,” said Anne Gill, Interim CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce.

Rio Salado currently offers certifications in areas such as Computer System and Configuration Support (including network and security certifications), Web App Development, Android App Development, Windows App Development, Search Warrant Preparation, and Substance Use Prevention and Interventions.

The college also works with partners to provide industry-specific training to their employees through Rio Salado Corporate and Government Partnership. Current organizations include those in the fields of law enforcement, customer service, insurance, and more.

Tempe Chamber of Commerce members and affiliated Tempe constituencies were invited to participate in the survey over the summer and fall of 2021 through various outreach methods led by chamber leadership.

Key Findings:

• 63 percent of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Businesses that participated in the survey noted an interest in microcredentials.

• Over two-thirds of businesses considered training or education in “Business and Management” areas as beneficial to their employees. STEM and Computer and Information Technology are also of high interests, with close to half of the 41 businesses selecting those Fields of Interests.

• The 59 businesses that responded provided 201 responses to their potential future skills gaps. The areas of operations, management, customer service, and information technology were among the highest reported areas of need. These content areas align directly to some of RSC’s most popular and successful programming options such as Business Management, and Computer and Information Technology.

• There were 44 businesses who gave 301 total responses regarding soft skills. Communication, problem-solving, and leadership were among the highest reported areas of need.