The concept of a competency marketplace may be closer to becoming a reality.
The idea, which author and investor Ryan Craig
has been talking about
for years, envisions a digital hub that brings together job seekers, employers, and postsecondary providers
. It would allow learners to see the skills or competencies they need to land posted jobs, with the site then offering applicable online courses and programs from featured colleges and other providers. Employers could recruit completers directly from the hub.
The “one-stop marketplace” launched in December features non-degree online and hybrid courses from seven partner community colleges, which pay to participate and then split revenue with Unmudl. More than 40 employers have hired out of Unmudl courses, and CVS Health has been user-testing the site.
“Employer subscribers will be able to target, message and hire learners from specific courses, and issue requests to one, some, or all of the colleges with the push of a button,” says Julian Alssid
, chief marketplace engagement officer for SocialTech.ai
, a public benefit corporation that created the course marketplace.
Unmudl seeks to help community colleges operate like a system across institutional and state boundaries, Alssid says. That could include an online certificate offered by a community college far away from a student, say for autonomous vehicle technicians, with a hands-on component required for the credential that the student could get from a nearby partner college.
Alssid previously led workforce initiatives for the Community College of Rhode Island and College for America, the competency-based arm of Southern New Hampshire University. He says Unmudl is aimed at working adults who need more training to advance in their careers but who lack information about the ROI of college offerings. And Alssid says the project is designed to scale nationwide.
“The world is changing and we’re not keeping up with the change,” says Alssid. “So many colleges are so dug in on focusing on traditional academic pathways.”
The Draw for Community Colleges
Arizona’s Pima Community College
is a founding partner, offering about 20 courses on the site, including a continuing education introduction to autonomous vehicles
for $262. Ian Roark
, vice president of workforce development and strategic partnerships at Pima, says Unmudl allows the college to experiment with non-credit offerings for workers who want reskilling and upskilling.
“The labor market does not stop at our colleges’ service-area boundaries,” he says. “Now, with non-credit offerings, we are not as bound by regional accreditation or tuition parameters as we are with credit-bearing programs, and thus we can be more creative and experimental.”
The popularity and usefulness of linear career and academic pathways will decrease in a “lattice-based labor market” that is changing rapidly, says Roark. Many employers and students feel the current system isn’t working, he says, noting deep equity gaps in higher ed and hiring. He says the partnership with Unmudl may be an example of where the higher education market is headed.
“We believe that these models increase job opportunities and upward mobility for more and more learners than traditional linear models alone will provide,” Roark says.
The Draw for CVS
The workforce group at CVS, which employs almost 300,000 workers, teams up with community colleges across the country on work-based learning experiences and academic program design, offering subject matter expertise, mock interviews, class visits, and curriculum support.
Even so, being able to reach a large audience of community colleges on a single platform like Unmudl is attractive to the company, according to Rick Laferriere
, director of workforce initiatives for CVS Health.
“One simple post on Unmudl can draw the attention of many community colleges and can bring new partners to the table for us to explore a partnership,” says Laferriere.
“When we can skip the process of researching which community colleges offer programming that prepares talent for the roles we need, and get in touch with the right person to explore a partnership quickly and easily,” Laferriere says, “it saves our team significant time and energy and connects us with a willing and enthusiastic educational partner.”