INDUSTRY LINKS CASE STUDY

Micro-credentials to enhance professional development opportunities

Poles mountains

Following a feasibility study into micro-credentials, EEA is developing a framework and pilot module aimed at developing the next generation of engineers in the line and cable design areas.

Feasibility study

EEA (Electricity Engineers’ Association) provides professional development services to members and the wider power industry via Queensland University of Technology and other providers. It’s objective in investigating and developing micro-credentials is to enhance the uptake of professional development by engineers already employed in the electricity supply industry.

In the Engineering e2e-funded feasibility study, EEA aimed to clarify the purpose, structure and delivery of existing courses, consider their ability to meet the current and future needs of engineers and the industry, and look at how micro-credentials could fit in.

Reviewing existing EEA courses

The study reviewed course content and found that courses provide the right training size and content for micro-credentials. It also looked at the governance and management of EEA professional development services, identifying the need for increased engagement with industry, more flexible delivery, and structured quality assurance processes.

The final report concluded that micro-credentials complement EEA’s existing courses and would facilitate professional development and lifelong learning.

PD ecosystem – a continuous feedback loop

EEA wants its professional development programme to provide practical knowledge and skills that engineers can readily apply to their day-to-day job. It envisages micro-credentials as embedded in a wider ‘professional development ecosystem’ – “….a continuous feedback loop that strengthens EEA’s course review and delivery strategies, and validates the usefulness of the training provided.”

Challenges to address

Introducing micro-credentials involves addressing a number of challenges. These include: understanding industry needs and facilitating access to professional development; aligning EEA training services to industry demand; tailoring courses to a wide range of industry sectors; and adapting delivery models in a rapidly changing technology/training environment.

Consultation with stakeholders

The feasibility study included consultation with stakeholders regarding current and possible professional development services. Existing and potential providers were invited to give feedback on and suggestions for providing micro-credentials.

EEA members and past course attendees were surveyed and expressed satisfaction with current course content. Many, however, commented on the difficulty in taking time out to attend courses.

In meetings with industry, employer representatives identified topics most relevant to their needs – some covered by existing courses and others identified by specific sectors as needing to be addressed. Some employers requested that courses offer more than technical skills.

The researchers also contacted other stakeholders, including Engineering New Zealand, Electricity Networks Association and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), to discuss their views on the proposed micro-credentials and qualifications.

Key recommendations

The report recommended an EEA Professional Development Committee be formed to work on developing, maintaining, evaluating and reviewing courses, with an emphasis on flexibility and quality assurance.

It noted that engineers have varying needs and goals, so there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. “EEA must clarify its target audience and objectives. This includes deciding whether helping engineers reach Chartered Professional Engineer status is a focus for micro-credentials or not, and consideration of issues such as recognition of prior learning and pre-job requirements. “

The report also recommended EEA consider ways to modernise delivery; for example, through online learning or digital badges.

Progress

Following the feasibility study, EEA committed to trialling micro-credentials and in February 2019 submitted its plan to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). EEA will develop and deliver an Overhead Line and Cable Design skills Competency Framework and a pilot micro-credential. Work is in progress via three workstreams.

Workstream 1 involved analysing and deconstructing the AS/NZS 7000:2016 (Overhead Line Design) standard and the soon-to-be-published handbook. This involved consultation with the Overhead Line Design Forum and others.

Workstream 2, designing and developing the micro-credential started with a survey of subject matter experts at the Overhead Line Design Forum in May. The results of this, along with further analysis and consultation, resulted in the recommendation for a staged approach to developing the micro-credential learning packages, starting with Design Principles and Stay Design.

In addition, members have requested that safety in design principles are woven into each micro-credential developed. This material will be provided in line with the EEA’s Safety in Design Guide (November 2016).

Workstream 3 involves monitoring and evaluating the pilot, and reporting on lessons learned from Workstreams 1 and 2.

Our thanks to Robert McCrone for his time and advice; if you have any queries please contact engineeringe2e@tec.govt.nz

June 2019