National nonprofit taps three U.S. regions to scale employer-validated badges on campus

July 25, 2019 | Education Design Lab

Education Design Lab (the Lab), a leader in the design, implementation, and scaling of new learning models for higher education and the future of work, today announced a two-year study and expanded pilot between employers and institutions to test the value of mobility skills credentials as signals in the hiring process, particularly for historically underserved learners. The project, supported through a grant from Lumina Foundation, will expand on successful efforts to develop micro-credentials in three U.S. regions with The University of MaineSan Jose State University and Central New Mexico Community College.

“Today’s employers are desperate for applicants with the right combination of technical and mobility skills. In most cases, it’s not that employers don’t have enough applicants. More often, they lack a clear signal of hard-to-measure skills that lead to long-term employee retention and success,” said Kathleen deLaski, founder and president of the Lab. “This work is about creating a two-way dialogue that empowers students to display these hard-earned skills in a format that’s easily recognizable to employers.”

Holly Zanville, strategy director for the future of learning and work, Lumina Foundation sees the promise of this approach: “By working with employers and institutions together, we’re gaining valuable new insights into how micro-credentials can boost the hiring prospects of underserved learners.”

The new initiative, called BadgedToHire, builds on the Lab’s pioneering Tee Up the Skills campaign, which pairs employers with colleges and universities to design micro-credentials that assess and validate 21st century skills aligned with local hiring demand. Over the next two years, the Lab will work with three institutions and their employer partners to study the awareness and acceptance of digital credentials as a signal for 21st century skills and improve hiring outcomes among historically underrepresented learners who receive the badges.

“Our employer advisory boards have continued to share the need for credentialing technical and 21st century skills,” said Denise Ojeda Industry Liaison at Central New Mexico Community College.

The three participating institutions were selected because of their groundbreaking work on Tee Up the Skills and their ability to reach a critical mass of historically underserved learner populations, including a significant number of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, active duty military, veterans and rurally-based students. Two of the partners are majority-minority institutions, and the third serves the most rural state in the US: 50 percent of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM)’s and 28% of San Jose State University (SJSU)’s student body identifies as Latinx. Nearly 18 percent of SJSU and 40 percent of CNM are adult learners.

Casey Porter, Talent Acquisition Manager for Enterprise Holdings who participated in the first phase of TeeUpTheSkills as one of San Jose State University’s employer partners noted, “At Enterprise, we like to see a candidate balance academics with such soft skills as work ethic, communication and teamwork. These digital badges provide students an opportunity to build on and articulate these skills.” Joanna Morrison, who is Northern Light Health’s Director of Talent Acquisition and one of the University of Maine’s employer partners added, “Hiring can get complicated. By using these digital badges, hiring managers will easily be able to identify and separate students with the right skills from other applicants.”

About Education Design Lab: Education Design Lab is a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models and credentials that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. The Lab demonstrates where technology, rigor and design can improve opportunity for historically underserved learners to maximize their potential in the higher education system.

Education Design Lab works across disciplines and alongside schools, employers, entrepreneurs, government, foundations, nonprofits and innovators. The organization has significant experience managing national and local learning cohorts, working with organizations such as Lumina Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, Walmart, Credly, American Council on Education and the ECMC Foundation. Learn more: www.eddesignlab.org.