The Open Badge Academy launched in March 2016 and we have worked with a range of amazing organisation across different sectors to credentialise their learning programmes. A common theme has emerged around how Open badges can provide digital credentials to enhance employability. We wanted to build on this topic and explore the potential of badges in this context.
Grainne Hamilton, Programme Director at Digitalme and all round Open badge expert led a webinar on this topic alongside Dr Doug Belshaw, Open badge consultant and founder of Dynamic Skillset and Kevin Jones Senior Learning Technology Development Advisor at Sussex Downs College.
Kevin Jones from Sussex Downs College shared his OBA journey, which started in 2015, to address the perceived gap in the employability skills of school and college leavers by employers. Citing CBI research, Kevin commented that ‘69% of businesses think secondary schools aren’t effective at preparing young people for work’ and the skills most valued by businesses for entry level roles include, ‘communication, teamwork, planning and organising, literacy, problem solving, numeracy and IT’.
Kevin led a successful bid to raise funding to translate an Employability Passport framework developed by East Sussex County Council, into an innovative badge scheme for Sussex Downs College students. Engaging closely with employers, Kevin has found the programme has started to build currency with local employer networks as they recognise badges that represent their core business values. Some employers have also started to offer work experience and interviews to learners who hold combinations of badges, representing a desirable skill set for their workplace.
This is a great example of how Open badges can provide digital credentials to support people into employment, when they are grounded in a great delivery programme and supported by advocates such as Kevin.
Dr Doug Belshaw highlighted the potential of badges as he reiterated they can be issued by anyone for anything and illustrated how badges enable individuals to be seen as ‘more than just their grades’
Doug expanded the discussion from badges being used as credentials to gain employment to a tool to support sustained employment, quoting a conversation he recently had saying “hard skills, the things you put on your CV are the things you get hired for, but the lack of soft skills, things like character, sense of humour, work ethic, if you haven’t got those, they are the kind of things you get fired for”.
In terms of how employers value badges — Doug made a great point, that even if you think an employer does not value a badge, you would need to test the concept before you can draw definite conclusions. People hold different perceptions of what constitutes a ‘valuable experience’ but all experiences can help to paint a richer picture of a person’s achievements. Through credentialing these experiences learners can create a 3D CV and employers are able to recruit people with both the technical and soft skills required to succeed in the modern workplace.
Through his work with City & Guilds, Doug was able to share his thoughts on awarding bodies and how they can capture a standard within badges while still enabling individuals the flexibility to communicate their individual pathways and skills, not always possible through traditional academic frameworks.
We are really grateful to Kevin and Doug for sharing their thoughts and experiences. It has highlighted both the immediate and long term opportunities for badges to add value in this area. It became clear through the discussion that digital credentials built on Open badges can be a valuable tool to support transitions to employment. We would love to hear your thoughts as we keep exploring this area.
If you would like to learn more about badges and how to design and issue badges of value, Grainne also presented on the OBA and Digitalme Academy.
The Digitalme Academy is a free resource you can access to learn about and gain badges. Featuring the Digitalme Badge Design Canvas, videos and walkthroughs in the badge tasks, you can get to grips with how to develop your own badge schemes and how to create and award badges.
Upon completion of tasks, you can also gain badges in recognition of your learning! Explore the Digitalme Academy and start earning some badges here.
Grainne also introduced the Open Badge Network, of which Digitalme is a founding member. The Open Badge Network (OBN) is an Erasmus+ project which brings together organisations from across Europe to support the development of the Open Badge ecosystem, promoting the use of Open Badges to recognise non-formal and informal learning. Its mission is to establish the Open Badge Network as a trusted source of independent information, tools and informed practice, facilitating the development of the badge ecosystem across Europe and beyond. Current OBN activities include contribution to the development of the Open Badge infrastructure, local networks, materials and guidelines. It acts as an amplification channel for other networks and is actively seeking members to register on the OBN portal to keep up-to-date with Open Badge developments. You can register here.