Digital Vocational Badges

Digital Vocational Badges
In this post post we want to introduce a major project officially launched at the Royal Society of Arts last week. It’s a project we’re hoping should lead to a brighter future for students seeking employment, called Digital Vocational Badges.

The problem
We know our learners face an increasingly competitive and global job market and that in order to differentiate themselves, they need to demonstrate the skills employers most value. Look at any job ad and the formal qualification is taking a backseat. The real skills they’re seeking, the so-called ‘21C skills”, are those such as communication, collaboration and problem solving. So how do we recognise these skills in our learners and how can they share these with employers.

It seems incredible that after completing say a two year qualification with us, that when it comes to communicating this to potential employers, the best we can offer is to suggest using phrases like “passionate”, “good team worker” and “hard working” on their CV.

In other words, we invest huge amounts of time in formal qualifications that are of limited interest to employers and then get them to self-certify on the skills that employers actually want. The bottom line is that formal qualifications, no matter how impressive, and a well presented CV no longer equal employment.

But that’s just it: how do teaching staff formally recognise these skills and also in a way that students can share with employers. How can we capture spontaneous moments of genuine real-world problem solving, showing true grit or staying cool under pressure; how do you reward that student in a way that will mean something to prospective employers?

Our solution
Remember how in scouts or girl guides you would earn badges for achievements? We’re bringing these back and applying them to education, but this time they’re digital. A digital badge can be created for just about anything; attendance, perseverance, meeting deadlines. They can be awarded to students by anyone, who can then share them with anyone. The badges themselves can be explored to find out who issued it, what was the criteria and what was the evidence. Employers can drill down and see all the evidence that shows why the student has been recognised for their Commitment, Attendance or Showing Initiative This could include photos of customer feedback cards, attendance reports, or video testimonials from tutors.

Most of the technical infrastructure to deliver the project is already in place and we are building on the work by Mozilla and using their Open Badges platform.

It’s not just us either.   Read how 10million better futures are hoping to use this platform by 2016.

We need employers to build the badges
We’re piloting with sectors; hospitality & catering, complementary therapy and hair & beauty. In order to give our badges the most credibility, we are now beginning our outreach to employers to find out the key skills that they value most when choosing prospective candidates. We will then translate these into digital badges.

To inform this process, we have launched a brief skills survey available here for all local employers.

We’re also inviting employers to our launch event at the Kings Restaurant on 19th November 2015 where we’ll be capturing the criteria and evidence for the skills they need.  You can book free tickets for this event now.

For more information regarding the project please contact kevin.jones@sussexdowns.ac.uk

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