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Walmart continues investment in XCredit, seeds Center for Skills Validation

Education Design Lab will establish the center to enable skills validation at scale.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 23, 2023) — Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit that designs, implements, and scales new models which increase equitable access and mobility in the future of work, today announced Walmart’s continued investment in XCredit, seeding the Lab’s Center for Skills Validation. The center will provide the foundation to operationalize an equitable, visible, skills economy, benefitting multiple skills ecosystem stakeholders, including opportunity seekers, employers, educators, and workforce intermediaries.

Why it matters

Recent labor market shifts have led to a growing recognition that skills are the key to more effective and more equitable systems of learning and work. However, in the future skills ecosystem, any skills gained and credentialed, and then shared with employers, must first be validated. Without validation woven throughout each facet of the ecosystem, unsubstantiated skills assertions pose a risk to the adoption and sustainability of all skills-based efforts.

Embedding skills validation throughout the skills-based talent ecosystem is a long-term, large-scale effort which will require a coordinated effort.

Center for Skills Validation overview

The newly announced Center for Skills Validation will house all of Education Design Lab’s work focused on skills validation, including existing projects such as XCredit and its Skills Validation Network. The center will stand alongside the Community College Growth Engine as a flagship Lab initiative focused on building equitable, skills-based pathways and credentials for both employers and STARs (those who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes, as opposed to a bachelor’s degree).

“The Lab is well positioned, as a neutral transformation partner, to lead a national skills validation movement,” said Bill Hughes, President + CEO of Education Design Lab. “By providing a space for experimentation and research, the Lab will build on our previous work to co-create scalable, evidence-based skills validation tools, methods, and solutions.”

The center’s key objectives:
  • Drive experimentation and research.
  • Enable scale and delivery of skills validation tools and methods.
  • Support automation, access, and integration of skills validation into the broader skills ecosystem.
  • Provide technical assistance and capacity-building support in skills validation.
  • Defining the field and making the case for skills validation.

“Bringing the value of ‘what we know and can do’ through skills validation is essential to opening the door to new workplace opportunity,” said Sean Murphy, Director, Corporate Philanthropy, Walmart. “We are excited to support the Center for Skills Validation, which is focused on finding new and unique ways of capturing the skills gained through lived experiences.”

What is skills validation?

  • The process by which an assertion (“I assert that I have a skill!”) is substantiated.
  • Typically conducted by qualified third party.
  • Creates trust that individual possesses a skill.
  • Based on a shared understanding of meaning of a skill.
  • Indicates level and context of a skill.
  • Can be conducted through various methods.

“Validation of skills at scale is necessary if we’re to realize the full potential of a skills-first approach,” said Tara Laughlin, Senior Education Designer and XCredit project lead. “Validation empowers opportunity seekers, affirms the efforts of educators, strengthens the capabilities of workforce intermediaries, and builds the confidence of employers when transitioning to this new model.”

What we’ve accomplished so far

To date, Education Design Lab’s XCredit initiative, supported by Walmart, has been dedicated to prototyping and piloting: 1) An initial set of skills validation tools and methods, most notably a suite of cutting-edge 21st century skills assessments; 2) An interoperable ecosystem of partners seamlessly sharing skills and credential data across systems, making skills visible to employers; and 3) A growing coalition of practitioners prototyping and testing new approaches via the Skills Validation Network.

XCredit by the numbers

118 assessments
30 partner organizations
3 pilots
1,840 pilot participants
1,727 skills validated
447 credentials earned

What’s next

The Lab will leverage work from two successful years of XCredit as the foundation for the Center for Skills Validation. Over the next 12 months, thanks to this round of funding from Walmart, the XCredit team will expand this work by launching additional research, demonstration projects, validation tools, and thought leadership for the field.

Go deeper

Learn more about XCredit here, and download our 2023 position paper, Skills Validation: An Imperative for Opportunity (PDF).


About Education Design Lab

The Lab is a national nonprofit that co-designs, prototypes, and tests education-to-workforce models through a human-centered design process focused on understanding learners’ experiences, addressing equity gaps in higher education, and connecting new majority learners to economic mobility. The XCredit initiative, led by Dr. Tara Laughlin, is a project established to validate skills gained through work and life experience.

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