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Over the last few years, employers have become less interested in what degrees people have and more interested in what actual skills they possess.
But there’s one challenge with that: it’s hard to know what skills someone truly has. You can look at resumes and at jobs or social media platforms, but that information is sometimes fake or misleading. In a recent survey, recruiters stated that 85 percent of candidates exaggerate skills and competencies on their resumes. Most people are attempting to accurately portray the skills they have developed. However that’s hard to do, given the lack of clear guidance about what constitutes proof of skill attainment.
Attainment can be everything from passing a proctored exam to becoming licensed as a veterinarian, to having your colleagues ask you to work as a graphic designer on a project, to just knowing you are skilled baker. As a result we infer skills from many different sources, but as skills become ever more consequential, we need tools and processes to confirm them at scale.
Employers have many, many jobs they cannot fill because they cannot find people with the right mix of skills. We need a reliable system for understanding people’s true skills, that can be validated. We can use artificial intelligence to scan the hundreds of thousands of applications submitted, but many are chaotically written and it can be hard to discern which skills match to which jobs. Often, neither the applicant material nor the job descriptions are written in a direct, specific, useful way nor are they easily aligned to the skills that would assure job success.
Getting proper credit for your skills
This method for filling jobs makes it tough for job seekers, especially those who did not attend prestigious colleges. They need an objective way to present information about their skills that can make them appealing candidates. Job seekers need to properly receive full recognition for courses they might have taken online or through nontraditional channels that reflect true skill acquisition.
Individuals also need a simpler way to understand what skills they need, and where to get them, to be hired for the jobs they want. One job does not always lead seamlessly to the next. Sometimes people want to change fields and to do that, reshuffle their skills and add some new ones. Often they shift into something analogous, but sometimes they choose a completely different path. A platform or app that would let an individual see what skills they are missing and where they can get them if they are looking to transition from a job as a factory worker to become, say, a programmer, would be transformative.
An important group of organizations have come together to try to tackle this problem. All are facing the same problem IBM faces: there’s a lot of obstructions and inefficiency in the talent market place. Technology can help us make this easier. We believe that by using a blockchain-enabled wallet, we can help people keep their credentials in a safe place even as they seamlessly share them.
Partnering for job seekers and employers
To test out the idea of making it easier for people to chart a path to their own future, we are doing a pilot now with several partners, including the National Student Clearinghouse, Western Governors University, Central New Mexico Community College and IQ4, using a blockchain-powered digital platform that will enable easy sharing of learning and employment records and assure privacy and security for the individual. This pilot is part of the work of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, led by the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In the pilot, we will provide tools that make it easier for job seekers and employers to manage careers in cybersecurity. We will give students information about the skills they need to become a cyber security engineer and how to fill skills gaps they might have. The pilot will aim to give employers information on people looking for jobs who have the skills they are seeking. We expect to have the results in Fall 2020.
The next step, assuming the pilot shows good results, is to create a trusted blockchain-enabled platform on a national level where people can post their verified skills for rapid search by employers, which will accelerate the process of helping students and workers land in-demand jobs.
Setting standards for a digital wallet
Creating a trusted platform requires a data set that can be shared broadly — an interoperable data set. We don’t have that now. Part of the problem is simply the data itself. One organization might have the information but it’s hard to share because there are proprietary databases involved and few generally agreed upon standards that define what this learning and employment record should look like. We need a set of standards for both applicants and job descriptions, and everything needs to be machine readable so technology can work its magic.
To provide privacy and security, the record will be built on a privacy protected blockchain infrastructure. People will have a permanent, verifiable record of their learning, certifications and skills. They will control the data and choose how it is shared. But they will not be able to manipulate it, nor will outsiders be able to hack it. Basically, everyone will have a digital wallet that contains their work and education info and they can share it where and how they please.
How would that work? Let’s say you are one of the many restaurant workers let go because of the pandemic, and unlikely to soon find work in that industry. You have a set of skills and experiences, and they are reflected in your wallet. Let’s say you want to move into tech. You can say to the wallet — perhaps an app on your phone — that you want to do that. It might then tell you that you have 30 percent of the needed skills, and here are education programs that can give you the remaining 70 percent.
New collar jobs for a new economy
Once you get that training, ideally the job will find you, because you will have made your skills publicly available for employers to search — anonymously of course — because blockchain allows for that. Blockchain will allow us to gather data from all sorts of proprietary data bases and assemble it in a useful, secure way, allowing sharing but keeping the individual anonymous. In any blockchain, you can see the provenance of the information and who issued it, and it can never be erased. Because blockchain consists of potentially millions of permanent individual blocks, no information can be altered it can only be added too, making hacking essentially impossible.
In many fields there is a significant shortage of workers. Jobs are changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up, for everyone. Now, the fact that millions of people in the U.S. are either unemployed or displaced has put fuel on the fire to help them find news jobs and careers. While the change to a skills-based economy was already underway, the pandemic is speeding up this transformation, and we have to make sure not only that it functions and protects privacy, but that it doesn’t leave behind those who are less able to access or less comfortable using technology.
I believe this is a transformative use of technology that will change people’s lives. We must do it now, as it is urgently needed.