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“Yeah, I get it, I know what a skill is.”

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

When we talk about skills, many people might think they “get it” right away…until we start throwing around terms like RSDs (rich skill descriptors), skills ecosystem, or open skills management tool. The words can sound familiar but are sometimes strung together in ways that are confusing. This is why definitions are important and one of the main goals of the OSN when we started – to create a space where definitions can be tested, demonstrated, taught, and refined. We actively work to create a common language so that all can understand each other and, more importantly, our collective ideas can be shared and taught. Through our conversations at our monthly showcases, on our member platform, in our workgroups, pilots, projects, and our upcoming communities of practice, the OSN seeks to reflect the language and structure that our community and partners use in this work.

This October, we are celebrating our 2nd anniversary as a community of employers, education providers, policymakers, military, non-profits, and other stakeholders dedicated to advancing skills-based education and hiring. Our October showcase will reflect on our definitional work so far, and the ways we plan to use our new common language in the future.

How we define things directly impacts how understood and portable things are - from ideas to actual jobs. Infrastructure, such as we are building in the skills ecosystem, needs to be clearly defined – layer by layer – for it to have power and applicability across industries.

For instance, what is a skills ecosystem? An ecosystem is a complex or interconnected system, and a skill is a learned power or developed aptitude to do and demonstrate something competently. Put together, this shows us a world where there are direct connections between educator, employer, and holder of a skill and then the building, learning, using, and understanding of the same skill. In other words, the world we all live in everyday from learning new things, to using them at a job, to tutoring a friend.

What’s the real-world outcome of connecting the dots within a definition when it comes to skills?

In September, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce redefined what we know as The Great Resignation to The Great Reshuffle. They identified that while many workers were quitting their jobs, they were also getting re-hired elsewhere. Savvy workers who understand their skill sets can utilize their experience from one sector and translate it to another industry or market. We at the OSN love to see this, as it’s our goal to collaborate with educational institutions and employers to empower learner earners to be able to nimbly redefine their career within their own skillset – and The Great Reshuffle shows the work of skills in action.

But there’s still more work to be done. The U.S. Chamber goes on to say that some industries – like “durable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and education and health services have a labor shortage,” while others have a labor surplus, such as transportation, construction, and mining. Broadening the work of open skills can help provide balance to these industries and increase stability for workers and employers. The article even provides skilling and reskilling as potential solutions for employers and employees.

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