Mark Leuba
Vice President for IMS Global Learning Consortium


January 31, 2022


With more than 11 million current job openings, hiring managers, recruiters, and talent professionals struggle to find qualified candidates. However, many should note that a growing body of colleges, universities, and school districts are focused on developing a workforce for in-demand fields and recognizing their learner’s achievements in digital credentials based on open standards. Through a partnership with IMS Global Learning Consortium, workforce development organizations, and philanthropies, higher education is demonstrating how to prepare learners for in-demand jobs and give them tools to help them manage their academic and career journey.

IMS Global is a non-profit membership organization committed to lifelong learning enabled through open standards. Our 700-plus member organizations include leading institutions and technology providers that support teaching, learning, and development worldwide. IMS members recognize that greater collaboration with employers, large and small, is key to enabling alignment between supply and demand in the talent supply chain. Collaboration at scale requires the use of technology, and the equitable allocation of resources relies on open standards to ensure a level playing field and a healthy, scalable market.

Open standards can address two key talent issues: what skills are needed to perform a job, and which candidates possess those skills. IMS members, working with organizations such as the American Associations of Collegiate Registrars (AACRAO), the University Professionals Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s T3 Innovation Network, led the development of open standards and recently concluded a demonstration project that shows the impact open standards can have on recruiting, applicant tracking, and selection for precise, equitable hiring.

The talent acquisition demonstration is part of the Wellspring Initiative, which benefits learners and workers by aligning learning outcomes to industry competency standards or an employer’s work qualifications. Individuals are issued verifiable digital credentials when they demonstrate their achievement. In the project, institutions and their employer partners sat down and did the hard work of comparing and aligning program learning outcomes with the competencies required to perform specific jobs such as environmental technician, customer service representative, and project accountant. Each of the six organizations produced a brief case study to share the lessons learned from the project completion interviews. These lessons helped inform industry standards and also guide subsequent Wellspring research priorities.

The verifiable digital credentials awarded in the demonstration used the Comprehensive Learner Records Standard and Open Badges, both open standards published by IMS Global. The Wellspring demonstration showed how employers and their education partners can form a private and secure “virtual talent network” into which learners and workers can opt-in to make their verifiable skills-based credentials available for a low-bias “blind,” anonymous search. In the demonstration, with structured data records for anonymized candidates available for processing through the ATS ranking algorithms, highly qualified candidates were discovered and ranked against others, including the hiring organizations’ internal team members who already possess many of the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities.

The Wellspring demonstration also incorporated a digital wallet which the learner-worker controls as the place to collect and manage their verifiable digital credentials. The digital wallet allows the individual to create self-assertions of their knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) with evidence that they can attach, accounting for prior knowledge or experience. Individuals can include their endorsements in a verifiable record and curate a resume-like collection of confirmable achievements for presentation to an employer. When an employer’s HR applicant tracking technology incorporates the open standards and capabilities of the Wellspring demonstration, the results offer a richer, more holistic view of the individual, focusing on skills over pedigree, verifiable achievement over personal network.

Aligning the supply and demand signals between the education community and the employment market is critical to the health of our economy and to the individuals that are out there daily, seeking to advance themselves. This is significant, important work conducted by leaders and organizations moving toward a common goal and based upon free, open standards. Realizing these goals can transform lives and contribute to a brighter future.

Join the 2022 Digital Credentials Summit in Atlanta, February 28-March 2 to learn more information about the mobilizing power of digital credentials and skills frameworks, including new employer-focused research, and see inspiring projects from pioneering institutions and employers.

About WellspringWellspring is a multi-year initiative of the 1EdTech Foundation and IMS Global Learning Consortium that aims to accelerate the adoption of an education-to-work ecosystem based on open technology standards. Wellspring envisions an environment where educators and employers can collaborate on curricula and assessments focused on outcomes and skills, where learners control their knowledge and skills-based achievements in secure and verifiable digital credentials, and employers can find highly qualified talent based on an individual’s verifiable credentials. Wellspring aims to establish proof points through research, practice, and demonstration as a roadmap for talent ecosystem stakeholders to achieve digital transformation based upon proven open standards. The 1EdTech Foundation acknowledges the generous financial support for this work from the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.

About the authors

Mark Leuba