Earning Digital Skill Badges for Career Mobility

Students in the SNAP Training & Employment Program (STEP) at Treasure Valley Community College (TVCC) in Ontario, Oregon, are pursuing their goal of finding work that offers greater economic mobility through education. They have access to support services, such as work experience programs, career coaching, and the Step to Success class. Charla Wheeler, the STEP Student Success Coach and Instructor, used the New World of Work (NWOW) college-level curriculum resources and badging system as the core class curriculum for the Step to Success class. (This NWOW resource has migrated and is currently being updated with Fall 2022 expected release date). She also uses the 10-minute Pairin Survey to help students set goals and build self-awareness. The survey offers students a personal assessment about their top behavioral qualities and a personal development plan.

The NWOW curriculum is built around ten 21st Century Employability Skills. Over a one-year period, the Step to Success class covers all ten skills, focusing on three or four skills each term to allow adequate time for in-depth learning activities, discussion, and reflection. During the fall 2021 term, for instance, the class covered self-awareness, communication, digital fluency, and empathy skills.

The instructor explains her approach this way: “I bring awareness of how the skills are interwoven and overlapping but the class still studies each one in isolation so the students can define and describe it to others.”

One student shared an insight, related to the overlap of communication and digital fluency skills, that texting is a digital form of communication that can be easily taken out of context. The class discussed how to be clearer in their personal and workplace texts.

As students develop individual personal and workplace success skills throughout each term, they take the corresponding NWOW badge assessments to acquire digital badges to add to their resumes and LinkedIn pages. The instructor advises students to take the learner-level badge first, followed by the more difficult postsecondary-level academic badge. In the fall 2021 term, STEP students earned 34 learner badges and eight academic badges in the four skill areas covered.

Towards the end of the term, students discuss and write about all the skills they have developed through the NWOW activities. They discuss the unique attributes and values they each bring to a workplace.

By the end of the ten-week term, students can fluently and accurately describe their personal attributes and the 21st Century Employability Skills indicated by the badges included in their resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Using this knowledge, combined with their Pairin Survey personal assessment results, they develop a job search “elevator pitch,” which has already earned one student a job offer!

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