Article: How Degreed CEO David Blake is solving the skilling challenge at scale


How Degreed CEO David Blake is solving the skilling challenge at scale

A decade ago, Degreed created the LXP, birthing a new category of learning solutions. Today, Degreed is doing for skills what it did a decade ago for content.
How Degreed CEO David Blake is solving the skilling challenge at scale

Learning solutions provider Degreed is laying down the groundwork for the emerging skills-based economy. In a sea of solutions providers, the company isn’t just another name on the market. Instead, it plays a strategic role in “connecting the dots” between different players in the learning & development space.

Pushkar Bidwai and Cheshta Dora of People Matters had the opportunity to talk with visionary CEO David Blake to uncover the role of Degreed in the burgeoning corporate learning market:

The shift to a skills-based economy and the vision of Degreed

How do you see the future of learning taking shape, and what is the role of Degreed in shaping that future?

One of the things that Degreed adds to the conversation is this vision of organisations moving from academic credentials and job roles to a skills-based economy. And I think that’s a better future for everyone – individuals, higher education institutions, and corporations.

We’ve just been painting in such broad brushstrokes. A four-year degree tells you things [about a person’s ability], but it’s a broad brushstroke. A university might be graduating thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people with the same degree yearly, which gives very little discerning data between those many graduates. Once we can verify peoples’ skills, we will be able to operate with greater precision.

People don’t have a uniform mix of skills.

It’s the same thing with job applicants and employees. Some of your readers’ companies – they’re going to have hundreds, if not thousands or tens of thousands, of people in the same job function. It is crazy to pay everyone in the same job role the same thing…when we know each person has a different mix of skills–some people have more skills than others. We are moving to a future where we can see each individual and their unique mix of skills.

We’ve never been able to operate one level down and discern the skills of a thousand employees in the same job role. Right now, we are on the cusp of a radical shift–soon, we will shift to learning, promoting and paying based on skills.

As we go from these broad brushstrokes of degrees and job roles down towards the precision of skills, the steps we’ll take on this career journey will get smaller, more frequent and more common. When we upskill, career [progress] will feel different [being unlocked] through mini step-ups.


● Degreed envisions a shift to a skills-based economy.

● This shift is transforming learning, hiring, and career development for a more adaptable future.

From hiring based on credentials and degrees to hiring based on skills, how will this change recruiting?

Skills-based hiring is about five times more predictive of success than hiring based on academic credentials and more than two times more predictive than hiring based on work experience.

The first assertion here is that operating on skills is a better way.

So then, if it's better, we should start seeing more companies migrate to operating this way. That will mean more and more companies dropping degree requirements from their job descriptions and starting to use the language of skills. That's going to have downstream repercussions, then remuneration.

Higher ed must ensure that a degree, such as a bachelor of science, will translate into skills for its graduates. It's going to make higher ed more skills-oriented. It's like a big rock in the middle of a pond, and waves [of change] will come at it through hiring, performance, careers, talent acquisition, internal mobility, learning and development, and workforce planning.


● Skills-based hiring is more predictive of success.

● The revaluation of skills over degrees is reshaping education and corporate practices.

What is the future of learning experience platforms (LXPs) in light of this shift to a skills-based economy?

The walls of the LXP category will expand greatly in the next few years. When we started, it was about creating and connecting this new learning journey for people across many providers, platforms, and modalities. A decade ago, the content world was exploding with the MOOCs, Coursera, Udacity, edX, Code Academy, YouTube, and TED, etc. All this content was emerging.

Degreed created the layer on top of this exploding content ecosystem.

What’s happening now is the skills ecosystem is exploding, and so is the number of solutions that have skills data on employees, such as skills-based hiring, skills-based internal mobility, skills-based learning, and skills-based performance management; all of these different point solutions.

There’s so much innovation. Like how we built the layer that sat on top of the content ecosystem, we’re building the layer to sit on top of this emerging skills ecosystem. And so, we’ll continue to be this strategic layer that makes a diverse, vibrant and growing ecosystem of solutions providers work collectively and strategically for an organisation.


● LXPs will expand and integrate diverse content and skills ecosystems.

● Degreed aims to be the strategic layer connecting various skills-based solutions.

The role of artificial intelligence in the future of learning

How is artificial intelligence shifting the skills landscape?

What AI is unlocking is understanding your skills in real-time – when you put enough work out into the world, AI is now able to infer your skills based on the data and give us a baseline of what skills everyone has – aggregate data across all of your employees. And so, for the first time, AI enables companies to have an actual map, an inventory of what skills reside inside the organisation.


● AI will enable precise skill mapping across organisations.

● Inferring employee skills from vast data will create a comprehensive skills inventory.

From macro to micro, where is Degreed among all of this AI shift? Where is the opportunity?

We don’t want to exist in a world where I go through my performance review, which is increasingly skills-oriented; then, my manager assesses me and levels me up. And then, I’m over in Coursera and level up there. But then I log into my HR system or Pluralsight, and it doesn’t know that I've levelled up over in these other systems in the past four months, six months, eight months. And so now, Pluralsight doesn’t have me well-calibrated anymore.

We need to exist in a world where – if I level up in Coursera – my data is levelled up across the whole ecosystem, all of the HR systems, and all of the learning systems. Someone has to pull all the data in, clean it up, and push it back down to all the systems. That’s the role we will play: the meta and strategic layer that makes the whole ecosystem function well together.


● Degreed advocates for a unified skills development ecosystem.

● Their role is to integrate and harmonise skills data across various systems.

By leveraging AI for skill mapping and advocating for a cohesive learning ecosystem, Degreed is addressing learning and development challenges at scale. Their approach not only predicts the future of workplace learning but also shapes it, ensuring that skill development is precisely tracked, effectively utilised, and seamlessly integrated across platforms.

This vision underscores the importance of adaptability, continuous learning, and the strategic aggregation of skills data to empower individuals and organisations alike.

Read full story

Topics: Leadership, Learning Technology, C-Suite, #BigInterview

Did you find this story helpful?