Walmart Backs Trailblazing Competency-Based Learning Nonprofit To Unleash Potential of Skills-Based Hiring

Center for Skills by C-BEN receives $1.5 million grant to help states and employers transform their approach to skill validation and assessment

Washington, D.C. — April 23, 2024 — The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), the international leader in re-centering learning to demonstrate what people know and can do, today announced the launch of the Center for Skills by C-BEN (CFS x C-BEN), an ambitious initiative to turn the promise and opportunity of a skills-based economy into practice. Supported by a $1.5 million grant from Walmart, CFS x C-BEN will leverage C-BEN’s unique expertise to create and implement objective, reliable ways to assess and validate skills that can bridge the gap between education and the workforce.

Interest in skills-based hiring is rapidly increasing. Today, at least 20 states have made formal announcements to focus hiring around skills rather than degrees, while nearly half of all employers have plans to remove bachelor’s degree hiring requirements. But this excitement has yet to translate to outcomes in either the public or private sector: one recent report found that skills-based hiring shifts only led to increased opportunity in one of every 700 hires last year nationally. UpSkill America, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, has uncovered significant challenges to employers achieving their goals because of issues in validating skills.

“For too long, the promise of skills-based hiring has been out of reach — in many cases, because of the difficulty of validating and translating skills between individuals, education and training providers, and employers,” said Charla Long, president of C-BEN. “CFS x C-BEN is about creating the infrastructure and consensus necessary to finally realize the potential of relying on skills, in ways that can unlock economic mobility for millions of workers and learners who have been overlooked by traditional hiring practices.”

CFS x C-BEN aims to support skills-based practices by:

  • Bringing together industry leaders to create and implement a common vision for skills validation, verification, and innovation with a focus on reliable assessment and quality practices.
  • Developing and deploying new, field-facing assessment practices in collaboration with cohorts of performance-based assessment innovators.
  • Creating state blueprints for new skills validation models and talent marketplaces, in partnership with a community of practice launched and led by the National Governors Association, to address worker shortages, while creating new opportunities for mobility.

“Businesses and states across the country have indicated their readiness to join the skills-based movement and realize its associated opportunities,” said Patti Constantakis, Director of Corporate Philanthropy, Walmart.org. “Achieving this potential requires quality assessments to accurately capture and share people’s unique skills and experiences. The work of CFS x C-BEN will play a critical leadership role in accelerating the shift to a skills-based economy.”

The work builds upon C-BEN’s initiatives focused on skills-based talent development, including in Illinois, which has used performance-based assessments to allow early childhood educators to demonstrate and recognize their knowledge and skills creating onramps and pathways to new roles. The Alabama Talent Triad, another initiative supported by C-BEN, has provided Learning and Employer Records (LERs) to more than 19,000 people, creating a seamless link between job-seekers, employers, and education and training providers.

“The launch of the new Center for Skills by C-BEN is extremely well timed to support exciting bi-partisan efforts focused on skills-based strategies across the country,” said Amanda Winters, Program Director for the National Governors Association. “At a time when governors are seeking innovative strategies to close talent gaps and create new pathways to economic mobility, CFS x C-BEN represents a critical effort to reimagine the role of assessment in building a stronger and more inclusive skills-focused economy.”

CFS x C-BEN is being formed with cross-sector founding partners, including SHRM Foundation, Upskill America, National Governors Association, and Education Design Lab, and welcomes new partners to join the initiative. CFS x C-BEN is excited to welcome ETS as the first global assessment partner to join. To learn more about CFS x C-BEN, visit c-ben.org/centerforskills and register here for a webinar on Tuesday, May 7th at 2 pm CT.

About the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)

C-BEN is a network of institutions, employers, and experts who believe competencies can unlock the future of learning — making education and training more flexible, responsive, and valuable. We support stakeholders across the spectrum of competency-based learning, from institutions and employers who want to embed competencies into their existing programs to those looking to design full competency-based degree programs from the ground up. For more information, visit C-BEN.org

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