The legacy of Brooklyn-born Arnold Packer is a range of insights and innovative thinking around economics, employment and training policies, workforce planning as well as lifelong learning. Packer, who died aged 85 in mid-October, was a senior fellow, then director of the SCANS 2000 Center at the Johns Hopkins University for Policy Studies. Packer also chaired the Governor’s Youth Apprenticeship Advisory Council in 2015.
But there’s one part of his legacy you might not know – the concept of Verified Resumes. There is also an element of blockchain to this story. The Verified Resume is a tool for educators, community-based organizations and employers to quantify a person’s skills and competencies both as a students and a worker. It’s a system to assess transferrable and sought-after job performance skills and behaviors. Verified Resumes are tailor-made for apprentices and trainees.
In short, it highlights a young adult’s competencies and verifies their progress in a way that translates meaningfully to an employer. The Verified Resume tool is robust and can be customized to whatever the length of apprenticeship or traineeship in any sector. It’s not an extra level of bureaucracy, more a form of quality control for any duration of apprenticeships.
So, what do Verified Resumes examine? These are the soft, enterprise or future workforce skills that are as important today as ever for those entering the workforce. They include:
- Takes responsibility
- Is a team player
- Manages time
- Handles information (subsets include acquire, interprets and evaluates)
- Written communication
- Oral communication
- Appreciates cultural diversity
The framework sees trained mentors rate apprentice’s performance from one to five, with half points used where necessary. Generally, one means they exhibit this behaviour or skill ‘rarely’ and a ‘five’ means ‘always’. Additionally, the juniors reflect on their own performance.
However, the meanings of the ratings change for the time management, information handling and oral/written communication categories. Scoring ‘one’ means the apprentice ‘can’t do’, two equates to ‘needs much supervision’, three ‘needs some supervision’, four means ‘can do themselves’, and five has achieved mastery, so they ‘could teach others’.
The system sees trained mentors rate apprentices soon after they arrive on the job (the pre-test), then down the track (post-test). They work out the percentage improvement for each skill or behaviour and tally the average from the skillset.
On average, participants improved by 15% to 20%. These were the findings from a pilot study involving more than 30 community-based organisations and 40 employers in the Baltimore area. That pilot issued more than 200 Verified Resumes to young adults.
Participants’ ability to self-reflect is important, too. Here’s what one said: “I learned about responsibility, how I used it, how I learned to apply it to work and what I got from it. We learned to work together to achieve our goals and respect each other’s ideas … When you work as a team, you usually get things done a lot quicker and more efficiently.”
Packer had been actively working on this concept this Millennium. Under his framework, he found that advisors, youth development officers and teachers at the CBOs could effectively teach, assess and certify performance skills. They were trained as mentors and able to train peers at other CBOs to do the same.
Perhaps these independently trained mentors disagreed about the ratings with the apprentices’ supervisors? In fact, employers tended to agree with the assessments. Packer worked out the difference in opinion was a mere one-third of a point (0.36) on a scale of five.
And, what are the benefits for the young adults brandishing their Verified Resumes? They have a document they can use to get a foot in the door to a potential employer as an alternative credential to the General Education Development Test or diploma.
This alternative was just what at-risk students needed to set them on a career path. Packer was involved in another project to help their schools develop rich educational technology resources and appropriate instructional materials for math, English and science courses. Known as the Baltimore Learning Communities’ project, it was partially funded by a five-year U.S. Department of Education Challenge Grant from 1995.
For the project, students took part in a range of virtual (CD-ROM based) workplace and problem-solving opportunities with a real-world edge. It included designing and financing a retail store in a shopping mall, publishing materials and preparing a budget for a travel agency’s tour package and designing a community health information system. These real-world application experiences engaged students and facilitated both their academic and workplace skill development, wrote Packer in his final report.
Packer’s work on Verified Resumes built from the SCANS 2000 project he directed. SCANS was the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills Commission. It developed competencies and foundation skills as a “curriculum foundation” for high school and post-secondary career and technical skills education and workforce development.
So, have Verified Resumes taken off?
An Urban Institute report released last year says ‘yes’ with developments in blockchain technology reliably able to document skill verification by a distributed network of ‘actors’. In the past few years, several patents have been granted for blockchain-based Verified Resume technology. This protects the data from uncertainty and fraud.
The tech also compensates those who seek to verify a worker’s skill or credential. That’s happening at the Project Spring Foundation. It has outlined a protocol for using blockchain to verify workers’ skills. Those users earn broader access to the platform’s Verified Resumes if they have a history of reliable verifications. Blockchain underpins credentials that students at Southern New Hampshire University and Central New Mexico Community College have earned, too.
Such approaches help facilitate richer documentation, says the Urban Institute report, Training for Jobs of the Future: Improving Access, Certifying Skills and Expanding Apprenticeship. It’s much more than just having a system to verify past jobs or degrees completed. Blockchain allows skill certification to be documented and skills information to be reliably transmitted with the peace of mind about who’s done the verification. They include mentors, individual instructors, supervisors or certifying and licensing agencies.
As well, Verified Resumes are getting traction among other employers who are trying them for size. I’ve been championing them through the employer partners I work with via my apprentice intermediary organisation, IWSI America.
There’s a growing momentum of interest in Verified Resumes, especially as the U.S. battles another COVID-19 wave. High school students stuck in the remote learning revolving door might look more longingly to apprenticeships for hands-on learning they can apply in the real world.
As Packer’s work endures from past decades to our future workforce, the Verified Resume is something that will stand the test of time, challenges and uncertainty. Could this be the quickest way for young adults to gain employment in any sector and to pivot throughout their careers?