What is skill validation and validated skills development

An introduction to the outcome-based learning methodology that's improving the effectiveness and adaptiveness of corporate training programs.

Skill development—it’s a pressing topic across organizations worldwide. The need for rapidly developing skills has a huge impact on how Learning and Development (L&D) leaders, training managers and Instructional Designers are approaching upskilling.

Despite the focus on skill development, obstacles such as access to up-to-date content, ineffective training programs or low engagement due to training relevancy hinder individuals and organizations from reaching their potential. These obstacles pose a serious risk to organizations—and not just from a revenue perspective, but from performance, productivity, efficiency and security standpoints as well.

Here's the good news about solving this business challenge:

Skill gaps can’t run rampant or be overlooked in organizations that build training programs designed to provide people safe opportunities to practice what they learn, provide real time feedback and then validates their job readiness. A program like this also boosts peoples’ confidence.

This is why performance-based learning and validated skill development are where skill development is headed.

What is validated skill development?

Validated skill development (also called validated learning or skill validation) refers to the process of assessing, verifying and documenting an individual’s competencies in a specific area. Learners demonstrate their competency by putting into practice the concepts and skills they’ve learned in training. Essentially, it’s saying to learners: “We’ve provided you with the information, now show us that you know what you’re doing”. Individuals who successfully put knowledge into practice are considered job ready.

The process of validated learning happens first by individuals being presented with new skills or knowledge. Learners then are encouraged to experiment and practice with these new concepts to complete a certain goal or achieve a desired outcome. Learners’ efforts are then assessed to determine how well the goal was met. This skill data can then be used to improve the training content delivery method or the learner’s competency level. Learners can repeat the process as needed until they achieve the desired result.

Use cases for validated learning.

Validated skills development can be used in the different functional groups within an organization and across numerous use cases, including:

Skill validation and certification prep

At the end of a course or learning path, learners can validate they’ve mastered the material. It can highlight areas where  additional development may be needed. Skill validation and performance testing are better for assessing proficiency.

Job readiness

People can demonstrate proficiency by proving they can properly use a platform, tool or software by performing real-world scenarios in safe environments.

Technical sales enablement

Test technical sales teams’ knowledge on product features and functionality before meeting with customers. This builds a consistent, verified level of knowledge across sales teams, and increases chances providing a better customer experience.

Customer support for proprietary software

Ensure customer support reps are ready for all types of customer calls by testing their ability to resolve issues before they start work.

Ultimately, this approach better positions individuals to develop the knowledge and confidence needed to correctly complete on-the-job tasks or present polished software demos to customers or partners.

How validated skill development is used in training.

For example, you can have people go through a security challenge of setting up and hardening a new Windows environment. Using the information presented during training, individuals demonstrate that they can harden a live, non-production environment and submit their new work once finished for review.

Instructors can then review the learners’ work and determine if everything was set up correctly or if the learner needs more training in a specific area like building firewalls or implementing multi-factor authentication. This all happens during training, ensuring learners grasp cybersecurity measures before starting work.

Tired of manually scoring training labs and exams?

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We’ll show you how.

Customer examples of skill validation in action.

As a result of a business acquisition, Quest needed to figure out how to reskill and certify more than 1,000 partners and then validate that they’re job ready while increasing sales velocity in less than 12 months.

Learn more about how Quest Software uses skill validation.

Quest Software uses skill validation for partner enablement.

In response to the rapidly changing cybersecurity industry, Comtech, a telecommunication company, designed a training program with validated skill development. Their strategy included using hands-on training labs that were designed from real-world security threats and tailored learning journeys with with built-in feedback.

Ultimately, the approach resulted in 90-95% of Comtech’s learners showing real-world proficiency in identifying and preventing cybersecurity threats.

Read the rest of the Comtech case study.

Validated learning provides skilling insights for leaders and guides learners on where their skills are strong or still need improvement.

This approach provides HR, L&D, training managers and Instructors a powerful way to enhance learners’ skills and increase their confidence in their job and role. And with more confident employees is a higher performing one.

And that’s just the beginning of what the approach offers.

Discover the top benefits of validated skill development.

End-of-lab score reports provide learner-specific feedback and recommended areas for improvement while L&D teams can analyze organization-specific skill data at scale.

This is just one example of what’s possible on Skillable’s platform.

Take the guesswork out of upskilling with Skillable.

Stop guessing where learners’ skills are or how effective your training strategy is and start assessing, developing and validating skills throughout the entire learning lifecycle.

Additional FAQs.

1. How is skill validation different from traditional assessment methods like exams or certifications?

The key differences between skill validation and traditional assessment methods like exams or certifications are:

  • Hands-on, performance-based assessment.
    • Skill validation focuses on evaluating a person’s ability to actually perform job-relevant tasks and demonstrate their skills in a safe, yet live hands-on, real-world environment. This goes beyond written exams that primarily test knowledge recall and retention.
  • Organization/employer-defined competencies.
    • The skills and competencies being validated are directly defined by the organization based on the specific requirements of a job role. This ensures the assessment is highly relevant and aligned with on-the-job needs.
  • Ongoing, iterative process.
    • Skill validation is process of evaluating and developing skills, rather than a one-time exam or certification. This allows for continuous upskilling and adaptation to changing job requirements. Certifications help support this by requiring recertification cycles to cover changes between exam sittings.
  • Granular for skill data and stackable for credentials.
    • Validated skills can be awarded as granular, stackable badges/credentials that reflect specific competencies, rather than broad, all-or-nothing certifications. Microsoft is taking this approach with their Applied Skills initiative.

2. What are some common use cases or applications of validated skill development beyond the examples provided (e.g., skill certification, job readiness, technical sales enablement)?

Some additional use cases for validated skill development include:

  • Workforce development and reskilling.
    • Validated skills can help identify skill gaps and guide targeted training programs to upskill workers, especially in rapidly evolving industries.
  • Internal talent mobility and career pathing.
    • Validated skills provide a clear, objective way to assess an employee’s capabilities and map out potential career progression paths within an organization.
  • Hiring and candidate screening.
    • Employers can use validated skills as a reliable indicator of a candidate’s job-readiness and fit for a specific role, beyond just their resume or interview performance.
  • Contractor/freelancer management.
    • Validated skills can help organizations vet and manage the competencies of their extended workforce, such as contractors, consultants, or gig workers.

3. How can organizations implement a skill validation program effectively, and what are the key steps or best practices involved?

To effectively implement a validated skill development program, organizations should consider the following key steps and best practices:

  1. Define job-relevant competencies.
    1. Closely collaborate with subject matter experts and hiring managers to clearly define the specific skills and competencies required for key job roles.
  2. Design hands-on scenarios and assessments.
    1. Develop performance-based assessments that allow individuals to demonstrate their abilities through practical, job-relevant tasks and simulations. Using the challenge-centric learning methodology will help.
  3. Establish validation workflows.
    1. Put in place a structured process for administering assessments, evaluating results, and awarding validated skill credentials. Finding ways to automate is critical here such as using scored labs for skill validation
  4. Integrate with training and development.
    1. Align the validated skill development program with existing training programs to create a continuous upskilling loop. Tools such as Skillable Connect help organizations streamline and integrate their learning ecosystems with API.
  5. Leverage data and analytics.
    1. Collect and analyze data on skill gaps, assessment performance, and credential attainment to continuously improve the program.

      For example, Quest is now tracking additional training data such as average completion time, average score, number of canceled attempts, problem areas and activities, periods of inactivity, students who skip certain portions of the course, etc.

  6. Promote validated skills internally and externally.
    1. Communicate the value of validated skills to employees, candidates, and the broader industry to drive adoption and recognition.

      Quest’s skill validation program has been so successful that it began a strategic paradigm shift to more automated, scalable and outcome-based learning solutions across multiple business units.

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