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SHRM Foundation Skills-First logo

Skills-First at Work

Be Ready for the Future

Every day, businesses miss out on talented people because their gifts, aptitude and skills aren't as easy to identify as a degree on a resume. HR leaders must step up to make all learning paths count in assessing whether a person can thrive in a job.

To widen pathways to work, employers need the tools and training to assess a prospective worker's full set of competencies, gifts and skills, including and beyond those conferred by traditional education degrees.

What Is a Skilled Credential?

Skilled credentials are any certification, microcredential, badging, apprenticeship or other assessed learning opportunity beyond a 2 or 4-year college or university degree that formally indicates a worker has acquired specific skills or competencies.

As you embark on your journey to integrate skilled credentials and skills-first hiring and retention practices, you may find misconceptions are holding you or your colleagues back.

Perspectives on Skilled Credentials


of executives & HR professionals say individuals with only skilled credentials perform the same or better than individuals with traditional degrees.

8 in 10

agree that recognizing skilled credentials widens the pipeline and makes it easier for diverse candidates to obtain employment.

Common Types of Skilled Credentials U.S. Workers Hold


Training certificates


Course completion certificates


Industry or professional certificates

Why is skills-first hiring essential to success?

Embracing skills-first hiring means opening the aperture to a wider range of qualified candidates for positions, at a moment when more and more jobseekers are choosing to develop their skills either outside of, or in addition to, traditional 2 and 4-year college degrees.

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Our Latest Work

SHRM Foundation is working hard to increase knowledge, reduce barriers, and support HR in transitioning towards a skills-first hiring and retention mindset.

Do certifications, badges, and apprenticeships replace traditional education and experience? SHRM and SHRM Foundation's research examines employer and employee perspectives on skilled credentials.

Ready for Success: Adopting a Skills Mindset in Employment Practices offers a solution to talent acquisition challenges. This action-oriented toolkit, comprising 12 steps, empowers organizations to confidently advance the adoption of a skills-based hiring approach.

Discover the Skilled Credentials Action Planner, a free, self-paced tool for HR. Packed with resources, it's your guide to assessment and crafting a workplan for a skills-first strategy plan for your organization.

Embracing Learning Employment Records (LERs) is key to the future of work. LERs offer compliance and insights that can enhance human capital strategies, fostering a productive, harmonious digital-age workplace.

SHRM Foundation’s HR Apprenticeship Program is closing the skills gap in HR by leveraging a learn and earn model to support employers of all sizes. Apprenticeships allow employers to provide customized training and are a way to tap into a more diverse pool of job candidates.

This report proposes a bold shift in hiring practices. Instead of focusing solely on degrees, it suggests evaluating candidates based on skills, aptitudes and real-world experiences. This broader perspective aims to unlock a wider pool of qualified talent, fostering a more diverse and successful workforce in today's competitive job market.

Our Investors

SHRM Foundation’s efforts to accelerate a movement to adopt skills-first talent strategies would not be possible without the generosity and support of our corporate investors.

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