Skills Architecture and the Open Skills Network

Western Governors University — Goal 2 Initiative Skills Architecture and the Open Skills Network

Education and the workforce have lacked a common language, resulting in frustration, costs, and inequity in our systems to match talent with opportunity. The Open Skills Network (OSN) is a coalition of employers, education providers, military, and other stakeholders dedicated to advancing skills-based education and hiring. The OSN envisions a world where individuals are trained for in-demand skills and hired for what they can do. The OSN seeks to create a decentralized national network of open, accessible, machine-actionable skills libraries.

This groundbreaking work has resulted in WGU stepping forward as both a leader in the national skills conversation and as a founding member of the Open Skills Network (OSN). The OSN is a growing coalition of over 500 organizations, including universities such as Southern New Hampshire University, University of Maryland Global Campus, Georgia State University, and University of Texas at Austin; large employers including Walmart, IBM, Salesforce, and Ford; the American Council on Education, the National Student Clearinghouse, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force. Through the OSN, WGU is developing toolsets that facilitate the creation of a shared skills language to connect the world of learning with the world of work. 

As founding members of the OSN, we’re committed to developing the foundation for a skills-based future, a future in which learners and employers can find each other and connect in real time through a shared language of verified skills.

Marni Baker Stein, Western Governors University

Initiative Differentiators

A key differentiator between the OSN and other initiatives is the breadth and diversity of its membership, including unprecedented cross-sector collaboration between higher education and employers. Unlocking a skills-based education and hiring ecosystem will give power to individuals, allowing them to articulate their capabilities and potential to employers; expand the talent pool for employers; and reduce inherent biases in labor markets by focusing hiring and promotion processes on more objective, equitable criteria.

Key Interventions and Milestones

All WGU competencies have been tagged with Rich Skills Descriptors to allow for a dynamic “marketability” score for each WGU credential. The Open Skills Management Tool (OSMT) will be released to OSN members in October 2021, accelerating the access and development capabilities of open skills libraries to all participating partners. WGU and the National Governors Association are convening policymakers, beginning in October, to disseminate best practices to states on how to transition to a skills-based talent pipeline. 

Expected Impact

WGU will drive mobility for students and address workforce needs. Through Skills Architecture efforts and OSN, the university will increase the percentage of WGU competencies and credentials aligned with current employment demand across regions against a marketability score bar by program/discipline. The program will increase contributions to open skills libraries from WGU and the wider OSN partners; the number of OSN organizations who have made a significant commitment to skills-based education or skills-based hiring using machine-actionable, open skills; OSN institutions with credentials tagged to Rich Skill Descriptors; and OSN employers with job postings/descriptions tagged with Rich Skill Descriptors.