Digital Badges Are Increasingly Valued by Industry and Employers

A profound shift has taken place in the way employers view a potential new hire’s education and qualifications. That change is described by Ryan Craig, author and managing director of University Ventures—an education-focused venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs and institutions—as “a shift from degree-based hiring to competency-based hiring.” This change is evident in the way employers are placing less emphasis on college degrees and are more focused on the essential skills and competencies required to perform a job.

In response to this change, many colleges are offering digital badges to students and incumbent workers who complete certificate programs in areas such as technology, project management, and website design. A digital badge is an online representation of accomplishments such as the completion of a project or training, mastery of a skill, or accumulation of experience. They are issued by schools, universities, and community and professional organizations. The earner can display a badge on social media sites, online portfolios, blogs, and résumés.

For learners, the badge can supplement their focused degree coursework, demonstrating additional training or certificates earned. The granular level of detail and information provided by digital badges is valued by industry and employers because it provides a much more comprehensive picture of a candidate.

Example: How CompTIA Digital Badges Showcase IT Skills

The Computing Technology Industry Association (opens in a new window) (CompTIA) provides education, training, and certifications that help create a highly skilled IT workforce. Through global partnerships with thousands of academic institutions, not-for-profits, job corps centers and other organizations, CompTIA is educating, training, and certifying new generations of technology workers.

CompTIA issues digital badges that enable learners to share and validate various IT certification achievements. The badge consists of an image and metadata that are uniquely linked to the certificate holder and serve as a compelling evidence of skills-based technology learning. When a hiring manager clicks on a digital badge, they are given access to validating information regarding a job candidate’s knowledge and skills.

The CompTIA website states that certificate holders can use digital badges to:

  • Showcase certifications and skill sets to your professional network
  • Enable employers to quickly validate your skills
  • Share digital badges on any online platform: social media, email signature, resume, website, online portfolio and more
  • Search for new job opportunities and compare salaries related to your certifications
  • Receive personalized certification recommendations based on credentials earned

Preparing for Certification

Several Washington State community and technical colleges, including Clover Park Technical College, Highline College, Bellevue College, North Seattle College, Olympic College, Spokane Community College, Yakima Valley College, and others prepare students for industry certifications including CompTIA™ A+, Security+, Network+, and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).. These programs—many of which can be completed in less than a year—are designed as fast-track that lead to direct employment. Explore college programs here (opens in a new window) .

The Increasing Need for Alternative Credentialing

A report by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) (opens in a new window) revealed that “non-traditional courses and programs with alternative credentialing have become increasingly popular and are a staple among higher education institutions.” The report attributes this popularity to the fact that “the traditional bachelor’s degree may not be suited for some of the millennial generation, and that other types of learners may favor an educational credentialing system built around recognition for learning outcomes in the form of competency badges or certificates.”

How Digital Badges Help Students and Workers

Digital badges help students and workers demonstrate an additional dimension of their learning and acquired skills and can show a detailed account of an otherwise unrecognized pathway of accomplishment. Other benefits of digital badges for students and workers include the following:

  • Digital badges motivate learners to pursue skills and competencies by providing them with a verifiable credential.
  • Digital badges can help learners connect with poten­tial collaborators and employers.
  • Digital badges help workers transfer their on-the-job learning across different industries.

How Digital Badges Help Employers

  • A digital badge allows a recruiter to access metadata showing how and when the learner earned a badge, who issued it, and the assessments that were required to achieve the badge.
  • As a stackable credential, a digital badge not only demonstrates multiple achievements but also highlights the specific competencies that employers are looking for in new hires.
  • An employer looking to build a team to work on a project that requires specific competencies could set up a search within their organization for employees who have badges that verify those competencies.

The Importance of Representing Verifiable Achievements and Competencies

One major challenge facing digital badges is an apparent lack of standards, which can make it difficult for consumers of these rapidly propagating credentials to assess their value. A 2013 report by LINCS titled “The Potential and Value of Using Digital Badges for Adult Learners” (opens in a new window) suggests, “The criteria developed for a credible badge must align to educational standards, established business standards, or competency frameworks within specified professions or populations.”

The LINCS report further states, “Recognizing learning and successes from any part of an individual’s life — including achievements in both formal and informal settings not traditionally assessed or recognized — opens up possibilities for people of all ages to share a more complete narrative of their personal identity. Individuals or organizations with expertise and a willingness to put their reputation or brand on the line, for example, can give badges to those who obtain skills, knowledge, or achievements that they value.”

Start or Build Your Tech Career Today

Community and technical colleges can help you learn new skills and prepare for industry certification so you can pivot into tech or take your career to the next level. Explore resources like CompTIA’s IT Career Roadmap (opens in a new window) to see what interests you and browse our programs to find out where you can get started. (opens in a new window) .

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