Micro-credentials — a bite-sized approach to learning

Image: Andriy Popov /123RF

R&CA has used the opportunity presented by COVID-19 lockdowns to develop a whole swag of micro-credentials—short, low-cost online courses specific to the hospitality industry.

Picture this: your head chef has just called and said, “I’ve got a whole side of salmon, I need a special for tomorrow, can you put a dish together and cost it for me?” And you don’t remember how to cost a dish because it’s been forever since you were at trade school and you still have everything else you need to get done. 

You don’t have three days to go back to trade school and redo a ‘plan and cost menus’ unit of competency. If only there was a course you could knock over in an hour, that didn’t cost much, that reinforced what you’d learnt with practical examples. And you could walk in the next day and present it all to the head chef—having also upskilled yourself, so that the next time the boss does this, you’re the person who can solve it for them.

That type of qualification is called a micro-credential, and R&CA has started offering a swag of them. “We classify micro-credentialing as bursts of learning that can be ‘just-in-time’ for the learner to be able to get punchy information and knowledge about something that is quite specific to the hospitality industry,” says Katrina Higham, Head of Training & Education at R&CA.

The idea of offering a suite of micro-credentials grew out of lockdowns. The Association developed a micro-credential to cope with COVID-19—what was expected from employers and employees. “We developed the COVID-19 Hospitality Best Practice micro-credential, which takes about an hour to do,” says Higham. “And with the COVID-19 training to date, between the second week in May until now, we’ve had just under 3500 learners in the system.”

What followed was a demand for other, similar credentials, like Managing Customer Expectations and COVID-compliance. And there are more in the pipeline. “We’re developing a full suite,” says Higham. “We’ve got a Professional Gin micro-credential in partnership with ANANAS Academy. We’re working on one on Emotional Awareness in Leadership and some on Administration and Communication in hospitality, but all of it is hospitality-specific.”

Hospitality-specific training

Higham’s background is as a chef, teacher and business owner, so she is familiar with the industry and the advantages of qualifications. She has all the formal qualifications one needs for a career in hospitality and is grateful for the knowledge that comes with those qualifications. But she can also see problems with those traditional educational structures.

“I think what happens in training and education is that we get blinded by these processes and by the red tape and we move further and further away from what industry actually need,” she explains. “So we worry about the red tape instead of worrying about what industry is actually asking of us.

“As a chef, over 20 years, I’ve been really lucky. I’ve got all the pieces of paper. But nothing was as good as going out to a producer’s farm and tasting their food and being with them and picking up the product; you see the pigs, and you see the farm, and you really get a concept of what is actually happening in the industry.

“That, as a knowledge source, is not recognised in our industry. So what happened before is, the chef does it off their own back on their day off. We are going to bridge that gap between the industry currency and that knowledge, and recognise it as a micro-credential.”

Making it easy

Because all the learning and assessments are online, they can be done at a time that suits the student—something that’s quite important for an industry that works difficult hours. It’s also important that you can get reasonably priced courses that are specific to certain needs. “For example,” says Higham, “before we created a micro-credential in Professional Gin, there were an array of courses, but not micro-credentials with digital badges aligned to the learning. But that’s what the industry was asking for. They’re asking for tailored, bespoke training that teaches their barman about the best Australian gins, about how to make that perfect martini. 

“Before now, that knowledge came about through sharing trade secrets, knowledge and on-the-job training. But what if you never had that opportunity? How do you learn about it? We want to bring that opportunity to learner and to the industry.”

For a full list of R&CA’s micro-credentials, head to the R&CA Training Website