Companies partner to manage digital credentials

As micro-credentials rise in popularity, several companies have partnered together to establish a blockchain management system to ease the verification process

Companies partner to manage digital credentials

Looking to create an “internet of careers,” 15 companies have partnered together in a new initiative meant to establish digital-credential management using blockchain technology.

The Velocity Network Foundation, founded by Dror Gurevich, CEO of Velocity Career Labs, promises a platform for career credentials that can be shared with whomever an individual employee or student chooses.

“Individuals are connected with the issuers of credentials to claim their career credentials and those credential issuers — those would be employers, educational institutions — they’re able to issue credentials, to revoke them, to indicate how long credentials are good for if they’re permanent, and those credentials are signed and anchored to the blockchain network to make sure that they’re verified and they’re trusted,” says Yvette Cameron, co-founder and ecosystem lead at Velocity Career Labs in Denver, Colo.

The company was seeing a few startups coming out with proprietary plays for managing credentials, but it realized the only path forward was an industry play, she says.

“We felt that the underlying data-sharing architecture on how we exchange information about ourselves is fundamentally broken,” says Cameron. “[So] we targeted HCM (human capital management) technology vendors, staffing and recruiting agencies, development and assessment providers. Those who are driving student information systems are managing the credentials of students at all levels.”

The network’s goal is to become “as ubiquitous as the internet; this is simply the internet of careers,” she says. “Everybody is participating in the network. Everybody’s adhering to the same protocols just as we have common protocols across the internet today. It belongs to nobody. It’s run by the members of the foundation, which eventually will be all players in the global labour market.”

Initial members include Aon’s Assessment Solutions, Cisive, Cornerstone, HireRight, Korn Ferry, National Student Clearinghouse, Randstad, SAP, SumTotal Systems, SHL, Ultimate Software, Unit4, Upwork, Velocity Career Labs and ZipRecruiter.

Time-saving initiative for recruiters
Digital credentialing systems will save plenty of time for HR departments and recruiters, once they are fully established, according to Mary Barroll, president of TalentEgg, an online job site for new graduates.

“We’re seeing the world of job applications being so digital and the challenge of especially hiring large volumes of individuals — which we see frequently in campus recruitment — having the capacity to be able to have verifiable digital credentials that the candidate can rely on and take with them as part of their digital application is a real win-win both for the applicant, as well as obviously for the employer, who spends an exceeding amount of resources and time to do the sort of checks that are required to ensure that the applicant has accomplished what they say they have in their CV.”

But it might take some time to implement a platform due to technological considerations, she says.

“The whole question is the capacity to be able to rely on the technology itself: Is it verifiable? Is it encrypted? What are the privacy considerations around it both for the candidate’s perspective, but also from the employer’s perspective? Is this digital credential something that could be tampered with or altered in some way?”

The Velocity Network is privacy-compliant, says Cameron, and it will be “not storing any personal data on the blockchain. The only thing that we’re putting on the blockchain are the proofs of the credentials, the profiles of the issuers and the inspectors. None of the personally identifiable information is stored on the blockchain... It’s only stored on their mobile device.”

Digital diplomas offered by schools
Digital credentialing is already available for some educational institutions, which now grant digital diplomas, such as McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

To verify the traditional paper diploma, an employer must actually get a copy or some form of verification from a university registrar or university functionary, says Ishwar Puri, dean of engineering at McMaster.

“We use a blockchain platform in order to give degrees to students, diplomas to students. With this digital platform, the student has essentially a link that they can offer to an employer and that employer can verify that that student actually has that diploma degree.”

The data can be accessed after students download an app and show the app to someone or send the link, and the digital credential can be verified, says Puri.

“Employers can trust those micro-credentials because of McMaster’s reputation and trustworthiness.”

Micro-credentials indicating courses and competencies that have been successfully completed are also offered by the University of Calgary, in the form of badges.

“On our badges platform, [students] log in with their UCalgary email address and it’ll show any of these recognitions that they’ve accumulated over their career as students,” says D’Arcy Norman, manager of technology integration at the institution.

The university established the program so students can prove, via a website, that they have achieved certain competencies.

“Participants can earn these badges and then they can add it to their LinkedIn or their other social media platforms through the badges API (application programming interface) that Mozilla provided. [They are] a way to socialize what they’re doing and let them provide almost like an e-portfolio to document their learning to a career in various contexts outside of a course or a program,” says Norman.

The Calgary program has granted 2,187 badges of the 108 they offer, which have been issued to 1,264 students from 14 faculties and departments, says Norman, calling the implementation “wildly successful.”

“At first, we thought it would be ‘Who cares about the badge?’ And then we realized the grad students are extremely competitive and it was a thing they could add to their CV, their academics resumés. They were basically chomping at the bit to get the recognition. That was kind of surprisingly powerful in that they could brag to their peers that they’ve got it,” he says.

Reliable service?
While the timing is right to offer such a service, especially for HR and recruitment, there’s a learning curve and a confidence issue, says Barroll.

“How much are you going to put into this digital credential without doing your own checking, in any case? Do you still have to verify it?” she says. “[It depends on] whether or not the verification of this digital credential is taking place by a trustworthy source that can’t be tampered with or altered and is kept up to date. I think that will have a great deal to do with the confidence that employers and other interested parties that rely on those credentials will give to this new sort of innovation in on the digitization of the entire job-seeking process.”

For now, the 15 members of the network will be “driving the standards forward,” says Cameron, and it is welcoming new members.

“The foundation is a non-profit organization, it’s open to all organizations who are inspecting, managing processing records, and it’s a very straightforward membership process. We’re getting a lot of interest there.”

Employees who want to own work-related records and take them as they change jobs.

Number of secondary, post-secondary credentials available in the U.S.

Number of students who received Canada’s first-ever digital diplomas in 2019.

Sources: Accenture, Credential Engine, McMaster University

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