December 23, 2020 Democratizing Higher Education Through Skills-Based Training and Hiring with Marni Baker Stein

This week’s installment of Uprisor, the Future of Work podcast, is a fantastic conversation with Marni Baker Stein, Provost and Chief Academic Officer for Western Governor’s University. Marni has spent more than 20 years developing, implementing, and evaluating innovation for higher education programs and curricula with a focus on skills-based education and talent acquisition. She joins Uprisor to discuss how a shift to skills-based assessments and hiring can positively impact the talent marketplace. Enjoy the conversation and top moments below.

Powered by Technology

Marni and Clinton kick off by discussing the pivotal role technology plays in extending learning opportunities and community access to students—regardless of socio-economic status or zip code. In her time working with digital education at Columbia and Penn, Marni focused on technology’s potential to exponentially move the dial for student success. “Not just the elite students who have perfect GPAs and perfect SAT scores… but for every resilient, smart, gritty student out there.” She also calls out the ways technology can make learning more interactive and dynamic for students.

“I’ve always believed that digital is powerful, not only because it allows us to expand access, but because it can be incredibly granular and personalized.” 
— Marni Baker Stein


Competency-based education is focused on helping students gain mastery that will help them get a specific job or build a certain career. The competency-based educational approach utilized by major online universities fed into the need for more standardization in the field.

  • The current educational system lacked the agility needed to keep competency-based curricula relevant for students.
  • There was a moral obligation to address social and economic mobility for individuals across states and regions.
  • Skills-based education can accelerate a solution to this mobility by preparing individuals based on geolocated talent demand.

This led to the development of the Open Skills Network (OSN). As Marni put it, “As an individual, I’m empowered to understand what my current profile is valued at in the employment marketplace around me, and to understand what my gaps are, so that if I really want to go in a certain direction toward a job or career, I know how to get there.”

Shifting the Dial

The conversation wraps up with a discussion of how the world is transitioning to a skills-based approach to education and hiring, both purposefully — and in response to current events. Marni points to a study that suggests as many as 48% of CEOs and HR leaders across the country have formal or informal plans to transition to skills-based hiring in the future. The two agree that the biggest hurdle to this transition is businesses getting out of the the mindset of only doing things how they’ve always been done. 

“We need lifelong, persistent, progressive education to support our evolving business models.” 
— Marni Baker Stein

Annika Nagy


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