Dismantling the barriers to lifelong learning with the National Skills Passport

As the Government takes steps to reform the education system with the development of a National Skills Passport, we consider the opportunity to create an interconnected and flexible education system that enables a fluid and learner-centric approach, addressing immediate workforce needs and lifelong learning requirements for all Australians.


The value for learners, higher education and the economy 

New models of lifelong learning are a necessity for the resilience of the education sector and Australian workforce. The opportunity to establish a National Skills Platform (NSP) stands at the forefront of this educational innovation. Here, we’ve intentionally used the term “platform” to reflect the greater opportunities for integrated experiences beyond the preconception of a singular passport.  

The NSP represents a transformative step towards an interconnected and flexible education system where the barriers between learning institutions and industry become permeable, enabling a fluid and learner-centric system. It provides the foundational capabilities for industries to better address the immediate needs of their workers alongside lifelong learning necessary to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the global workforce.   


Overcoming the barriers to lifelong learning

The absence of a national skills standard and platform is a barrier to creating frictionless experiences for lifelong learning.  

Our perspective is centred on transitioning from the traditional dichotomy of "current student" versus "alumni" to an "always on" lifelong learning model. This means aligning the experience of moving in and out of active study with expectations of ease and simplicity, set by consumer experiences such as “Sign in with Google”.  

As we partner with higher education institutions to break down barriers to learning, they have the power to customise their educational products – ranging from micro-credentials and vocational training to postgraduate courses – to address the diverse, ongoing needs of learners. This allows institutions to shape uninterrupted learning pathways that foster continuous education within their own product offering.  

However, this approach faces the challenge of "institution lock-in". Prospective and current students want the flexibility to choose when, how and where they study. This is a prime opportunity for the NSP to provide the capability that drives a cohesive and connected student experience that spans the entire sector, facilitating recognition and pathways for lifelong learning across various providers. 

To achieve this, we need to: 

  • recognise that standardisation paves the way for seamless experiences with effortless transferability of credentials 
  • understand that facilitating credential transferability is not a zero-sum game where one institution loses when another gains a student; it serves to lift the overall engagement in learning across the sector 
  • acknowledge the necessity for the education sector to become more permeable and accessible, aligning with expectations both inside and outside the educational landscape 
  • emphasise the importance of a diverse range of education providers and the value in connecting these entities rather than operating in silos. 

Key areas of focus

User-centric approach 

This approach surfaces and addresses the varied and specific opportunities enabled by a national credential standard. An industry-centred approach might surface issues such as the recognition of trade credentials across different states. Education providers might surface issues of streamlining recognition of prior learning. However, an overarching user-centred approach driven by government is essential for surfacing the complexities that emerge in a lifelong journey where all these factors intersect. 

Sustainable future-casting design 

Ideating and exploring future use cases will help to ensure the system's ability to meet the evolving demands of the workforce. This process should incorporate the growing necessity for transferable enterprise skills in addition to traditional qualifications. With the Australian Universities Accord in motion, this is a critical moment in time to design for a future unconstrained by the limitations of legacy credential models.  

Standardisation to enable innovation  

Development based on open standards and secure APIs will enable third-party integration into their platforms, allowing various industries to develop tailored experiences that conform to the national standard. This might look like industry-specific passport apps, integration with commercial operational software like employee check-ins, streamlined application to university, and compatibility with native wallet apps on phones. Standardisation provides a foundational capability for third parties to pursue innovation in the delivery of seamless experiences for their customers. 


A shift towards standardisation and interoperability

The establishment of a National Skills Passport is integral to dismantling the barriers to lifelong learning and aligning with national and university aspirations. By embracing an "always on" learning model and prioritising student needs, we can offer flexible and continuous educational pathways for all Australians.  

The shift towards standardisation and interoperability, inspired by successful models in other industries, will enable a seamless student experience across institutions, fostering an educational ecosystem that values transferability and reduces barriers to learning engagement. 

The NSP's development must be grounded in open standards, secure APIs and a user-centric approach to meet diverse learner needs and anticipate future workforce demands. It must empower education institutions and industry to create experiences that address their students’ and workers’ needs for frictionless transitions.  

In doing so, we will not only enhance the value of a system built on diverse educational offerings but also ensure the education sector remains dynamic, accessible and future-ready. The NSP isn’t simply about addressing issues with the current status quo but represents a fundamental evolution of the educational landscape that will benefit learners, institutions and our broader society. 


This article was adapted from Liquid's National Skills Passport Consultation submission written by Sam Daley, Head of Product, and Steve Marrinan, Partnerships Director.