CNM Ingenuity Receives Grant to Advance a National Learning and Employment Record (LER) Infrastructure for Skills-based Credentialing and Hiring

The LER infrastructure will provide students and employees with more insight and control over their educational, skills, and employment records, making it easier for them to navigate their careers and find good jobs. It will also provide employers the ability to connect with people and find the most qualified candidates for their open jobs.
November 29, 2021

In the current job market applicants are usually asked to provide a resume that lists the basics of their qualifications including college degrees and past work experience. The applicants hope this simple and outdated tool communicates their skills effectively enough for them to make it to an interview round. On the other side, employers do their best to pick through resume information to find what appears to be the best candidates.

It’s an inefficient system and one that CNM Ingenuity is now helping to improve. Thanks to a grant from Walmart, CNM will be researching several independent efforts underway in order to build a model for creating a National Learner and Employment Records (LER) infrastructure enabling the exchange of skills-based digital records that facilitate more efficient pathways from learning to earning.

An LER is more efficient and secure for both employers and job-seekers because it uses blockchain to provide security, trust, and transparency. Blockchain allows for independent verification of all the credentials put forth by an individual and allows for significantly more detail than a typical resume. For example, students and employees can list specific hard and soft skills as well as trainings and certifications instead of just degrees and past employers.

Conversely, employers can search LERs to find exact skills and work experience, and can be confident that the information is accurate. In addition, blockchain provides a trusted environment that allows an individual to control their information and determine who gets to see it and use it.

“At CNM we know how important it is to be able to match the educational goals of individuals with career pathways that will lead to quality life outcomes. We also know that it is critical to help employers find the talent they need to prosper as businesses,” says CNM President Tracy Hartzler. “We are very excited to have this opportunity to collaborate with many other regional and national partners in advancing a skills-based digital credentialing system that will connect learners and employers more effectively and efficiently.”

More broadly, a national LER system will also have important impacts on equity. People who are not able to complete a four-year degree but can complete a skills course such as CNM’s Deep Dive Coding bootcamps will be able to use the LER system to advertise and elevate their credentials and improve their marketability.

“Doing away with a system where a degree is the only way to signal your skills will open up a much more diverse pipeline of workers,” says Erica Barreiro, CNM’s Future of Work Strategist and one of the grant leads. “In a state like New Mexico where we’ve long had issues in terms of access to job mobility amongst our population, there are a lot of people who stand to benefit.”

CNM is perfectly positioned to lead the grant because of the college’s history with both blockchain and equity. The college was the first among community colleges to offer blockchain-verified diplomas, will soon be offering a wide variety of blockchain classes, and will be developing a blockchain center to harness the technology in a way that benefits programs across the college.

Critical to the successful development of a National LER is interoperability, or the exchange and readability of data from and across multiple technology systems. That’s why CNM Ingenuity will be collaborating with a number of experts in this national project, including IBM Consulting, IBM’s consulting and global professional services business, which co-developed a blockchain-based platform that manages the exchange of skills-based credentials; SOLID, a company that’s using blockchain to help military members verify their skills so they can find civilian employment after leaving the armed forces; Randa, which is enabling teachers to use a digital wallet to verify everything from their credentials to their lesson plans; Public Consulting Group who is leading North Dakota’s state-wide efforts on deploying K-12 blockchain learner records; and Western Governors University, a national higher education leader in building a skills-based learning and work ecosystem.

“With a focus on interoperability, CNM’s project can advance the overall learning and employment records ecosystem,” says Sean Murphy, Senior Manager of Opportunity at Walmart. “Our investment in this effort is based on our belief that building educational and career pathways based on skills will open up opportunities for all.”

CNM Ingenuity will be publishing a report from this research in April 2022, which lays out a roadmap for educational providers, state and federal officials, and businesses to build the infrastructure needed for an interoperable National LER system.

“Once we can demonstrate how this will work and show evidence of the positive impacts it will have for all of these stakeholders, including learners, we will be able to accelerate an adoption of these technologies that will better position us for the future of work,” Barreiro says.