The cost of formal education is increasing. As of 2020, only 33% of Americans graduate from college, with the rising expenses cited as the foremost reason that students don’t complete their education.
Sooner or later—and it’s looking like sooner, if the predictions of a skills gap epidemic by 2030 turn out to be true—the lack of accessibility to education will hinder the American economy. But solutions are out there.
Digital badges could be the thing that jumpstarts a new era of more inclusive, fair, and equitable hiring practices. With a digital badge, you can gain new skills and share your achievements with verifiable digital badges without the massive investment of both time and money you incur when you go to college. They signify that you’ve learned specific skills, unlike in college where the degree you earn doesn’t showcase the individual skills you picked up along the way.
Most importantly, badges are portable between most companies, so a badge you earn during one job will still be of benefit to you when you decide to change jobs. And because these badges frequently can be levelled up with other badges and they’re verifiable and may be part of a blockchain, they are a more trusted source for an employee’s skills than what you can list on a resume.
But these are all just talking points. I have a story that will demonstrate just how integral the badge-earning process can be to a career.
One IBM badge graduate named Coletta Teske, has an incredible story that really affirms the power that digital credentials have when it comes to bolstering a career. Coletta was finding it almost impossible to secure a job after being out of work for a couple of years. After all that time, her skills needed refreshing and her most current work experience was pretty far behind her. So, what could she do?
The job market can be so unforgiving to applicants who don’t have the perfect resume, especially older candidates or those that have been out of the workplace for a while—which is enough evidence in itself to why we should dispose of resumes in the hiring process altogether.
Coletta, virtually out of options, became spurred to action one day when she found IBMs digital badge courses. Discovering that IBM and other major employers considered badges to be resume-worthy supplements and even replacements for traditional education, she hopped on the opportunity. It was sharing her badge accomplishments through Twitter and LinkedIn that got Coletta noticed and eventually secured her a job as an information architect.
“I think the digital badges helped me get a job because they increased my confidence,” Coletta said. “And after I earned the badges, and I saw that I could get my skills back up really quickly and that I understood the material, my confidence level took a big jump and that was a big help in getting a job.”
This isn’t just one instance, there are countless that exemplify the necessity of badges and the good that they can do. Specifically for people from diverse and marginalized backgrounds, badges are the necessary alternative to formal education that they are specifically barriered from and can add a level of self-confidence when competing for jobs that may have candidates with a more traditional resume.
Many companies are starting to understand the need for educational equivalents if they want to remain competitive. IBM no longer requires a college degree for about 50% of their jobs and their digital badge program is a leader among micro-credentials. The future of digital badges looks bright, and one can only hope that other major companies will adopt the same attitude.