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Global Skills Passport: Solving Talent Shortages and Building Trust

Access to talent
Contractor Management
Direct Sourcing
Global Mobility
CXC Global6 min read
CXC GlobalMay 26, 2023
CXC Global

A global skills passport: it’s a revolutionary concept borne from the talent shortages across the globe, on the back of the COVID pandemic. This innovative approach to hiring is based on skills rather than a worker’s professional history or education. Skills-based training and hiring are at the core of the global skills passport initiative.

What’s also at the core of the global skills passport is the concept of trust. And the rebuilding of trust in our talent pools, as we emerge out of the pandemic. Given the upheaval that’s taken place in the workplace post-pandemic, a lack of trust has emerged.


As workers reshuffle roles and as jobs change, across both inter-and intra-country appointments, employers and workers are finding the ‘perfect match’ of skills to roles, illusive. In this state of flux, qualifications and credentials are more important, harder to define and harder to trust. And invariably, it’s trust that’s at the core of who an organisation chooses to hire.

In January 2020, at its 50th Annual Meeting, the World Economic Forum launched the international Reskilling Revolution, as a means of benefiting over 1 billion people globally, by 2030. The initiative supports systemic change in hiring. Where skills and skills-based training are recognised over traditional selection methods, like work history and degrees.

This approach is more meaningful and more ethical. And it plays well to the global skills passport concept.

Again, we ask why?

Because, at a global level (in fact, even at a local level), a skills-based approach is more principled than typical hiring and talent sourcing alternatives. It considers what individuals are capable of, and what skills they’ve developed throughout their working life – not just their career histories or degrees. A skills-based model isn’t biased, it makes talent pools more diverse, and also empowers refugees, whose competence becomes visible and authenticated. Social mobility and shared prosperity are the result: and a global skills passport is the ideal mechanism for a skills-based talent acquisition model.

Global Skills Passport: The Skills-Based Principle

It’s critical for a skills-based hiring methodology to succeed, that standardisation of language is achieved. A common language will also establish better trust in the jobs market for all participants. And, it will contribute to the success of the global skills passport.

Yet sadly, with the importance of putting skills at the heart of recruitment and reskilling, the skills themselves aren’t standardised, which means there is no way to trust the definition or scope of the skills, put forward by others. What’s missing is a common skills ‘dictionary’: a concept needed for a successful global skills passport.

When a consistent vocabulary of skills is used by all levels of workers, employers across all industries, and industry bodies, everyone benefits from the net effect.

But standardising skills definitions is only one part of the puzzle. Validating skill competencies is also required. This requires effective skills credentialing, which must be consistent across countries, education systems and industries. When available, these elements of language (or skills classification), portability, and credibility would combine into a global skills passport: a trusted, portable credential attached to each worker, empowering them with mobility and personal agency.

In summary, the global skills passport requires:

  • Language: consistent definitions, role-specific and applicable across industries
  • Portability: globally accepted, individually attached
  • Credibility: transparent, accredited, tamper-proof

Global Skills Passport: How to Establish Credentials at Scale

For the global skills passport concept to succeed, the ability to scale is crucial. Scaling will deliver broad-based uptake, a proliferation of user experience data, and in time, adoption.

A likely hurdle will be at the stage of verifying and benchmarking talent. This is limited by the employer’s ability to adequately validate a worker’s skills and qualifications – something that the passport must eventually offer. This typically human process of talent review — research, assessment, verification – creates an impracticable gridlock. Relying on in-person trust to certify online credentials cannot scale from thousands to millions or even the billion-person target of the World Economic Forum’s Reskilling Revolution program (as mentioned earlier).

Digital Badges: The Passport Precursor

To scale the uptake and acceptance of the global skills passport, the trust of the system must be granted to programme administrators.

From the World Economic Forum:

Among its recommendations for shifting to skill-based systems in 2019, the World Economic Forum promoted digital badges in accordance with the Open Badge standard. Digital badges are public and portable micro-credentials that represent tangible, often smaller-scale achievements. They can even be stacked to build a personal portfolio of demonstrated knowledge. IBM alone has issued more than 3 million of these badges to date, easily shared and portable across companies.

And protecting digital badges becomes the next challenge.

When put on a blockchain, digital badges become tamper-proof, trustworthy credentials unique to each individual. And digital badges are also secured on the unalterable, shared, public ledger of a blockchain. This means, they are verifiable as to who has earned them, who has issued them and the details of their completion requirements.

Digital badges on the blockchain are durable, personal currency, a trusted precursor to a robust global skills passport.

Kick-off Passport with IT Talent

Technology and developer skills are arguably best suited for the passport kick-off. These skills have testable benchmarks and will become the trustworthy arbiter of an individual talent’s competency.

In IT and technology fields, robust technical certifications have been in place for a long time, with proven value. Verifying technology skills at a smaller scale can be equally empirical. Some companies offer criteria-based benchmark assessments, and so forego standardised skills rankings to measure objective proficiency.

There are many reasons why IT and technology skills are best suited for leading the global adoption of a global skills passport. Firstly, the need for IT talent globally is most acute; the skills are language-independent and transferable across industries and countries; the assessments are strictly objective, and unlike soft skills – such as leadership or management skills – technology skills are less reliant on cultural nuance or subjective analyses.

Toward a Global Skills Passport

The World Economic Forum has said it best:

With COVID still ravaging the globe, and many of us now working remotely on a more permanent basis, with refugees spilling across borders, with a worldwide economy in turmoil from war and supply chain issues … matching workers with jobs anywhere on the planet, so they and their businesses can prosper in these times, is more important and more critical than ever.

The roadblocks to a global skills passport are formidable but not insurmountable. The immediate challenges include digital inequality of workers, parochial interests, competing standards of worker skills, leadership influences, and cost. Having said that, scaling trust doesn’t have to be the primary obstacle. Given the value of a global skills passport and its capacity to outsource trust at scale, the case is compelling for industry, academia, and governments to collaborate for common benefit. The global skills shortage needs a global skills passport urgently.

As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you are interested in discussing our insights on the global skills passport and would like to find out more about how we can work together, please contact us.

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