Forces such as automation, climate change, and a global pandemic have made it apparent that we’re all lifelong learners, building our skill sets over a journey that spans numerous roles. But, what is less apparent are the foundational skills that young learners need to successfully enter and sustain themselves in the new marketplace of work. To answer this question, the California Community Colleges created the New World of Work (NWoW) program.
21st Century Employability Skills
In 2016, the Mozilla Foundation released a comprehensive framework comparing college/career ready competencies from organizations across the country to identify core Web Literacy and 21st Century Skills. New World of Work partnered with Mozilla to develop a 21st-century employability curriculum based on these skills to democratize the framework and teach the skills to learners at scale. After extensive research and hosting a series of Skills Panels, Mozilla and the New World of Work developed a list of the “Top 10” Essential 21st Century Skills. These skills became the basis for the New World of Work digital badging program.
As part of the ongoing global transformation of the workforce, employers are shifting from degree-based hiring to competency-based hiring, and are placing more value on specific proficiencies and less on program completion. Educational institutions across the country are being called upon to better prepare learners with key employability skills to better align educational outcomes with the needs and expectations of students and employers.
“We have a top 10 list of essential employability skills that are required of workers in the emerging global economy – dubbed the ‘knowledge’ or ‘human’ economy,” said Rajinder Gill, co-founder of the New World of Work program. “These are the emotional intelligence skills that are indispensable to employers in the 21st century – skills that can’t be automated, like empathy, communication and adaptability.”
Verified Skills Create a Positive Feedback Loop for Students, Educators, and Employers
What makes the New World of Work approach to skill development unique is a three-level system that combines, free Open Education Resources (OER) for learners, certified instructors teaching skills-aligned material in an academic setting, and employer verification of the resulting skills in a workplace setting.
New World of Work partnered with Badgr to design a set of free lessons that offer learners a low stakes introduction to the foundational concepts behind the skills as well as the idea of receiving digital badges to signify skill attainment. In academic settings, the attainment of New World of Work badges are used to open work-based learning opportunities for learners, such as internships and apprenticeships. The Employer-verified badges are issued once a supervisor in a workplace setting has determined that the learner has demonstrated the appropriate skill. Feedback from employer partners is then used to improve the academic programs setting up the next cohort of learners for even better outcomes.
In order to assess and verify skills for the Academic and Employer Verified badges, the New World of Work team partnered with Launchpath. Launchpath uses Badgr to issue its badges and place them on a Pathway that gives learners an easy-to-understand view of where they are in their skills development journey, and what they need to do next.
The program has been so successful that the New World of Work program has led to the adoption of the competency model by the California Department of Human Resources, allowing the state to create a pipeline of skilled workers to fill its own jobs. Other programs within California that have adopted this skills model include the Retail Ready California and CCC Maker programs
New World of Work is also seeing growing adoption in neighboring states and regions. Worksystems, a non-profit organization that invests in improving the quality of the workforce in the metropolitan region that surrounds Portland, Oregon, has adopted the New World of Work system to fill middle-skill job openings in technical fields.
In central Oregon, Connected Lane County has partnered with New World of Work to create Elevate Lane County, a program designed to help young learners gain the skills, technical knowledge, academic foundation, and real-world experience they need to prepare themselves for high-skill, high-demand, high-wage careers in the region.
The New World of Work program has been growing to scale since 2017. In California, there are currently 85 official college partners with a goal to reach 115 colleges by the end of 2020. According to a summary report which surveyed students, instructors, and employers, 97% of instructors report curriculum meets or exceeds expectations, while 81% of students feel more prepared to enter the workforce after having completed at least one of the 21st Century Skills Trainings. Most learners, nearly 90%, agree that the skills they learned will be useful in their future career or academic goals. This nearly unanimous agreement speaks to the universality of the skills attained in the program. And learners are not the only ones to see its value: Nearly 90% of employers are also more likely to offer work-based learning to a student who has completed the NWoW program.
Badges Make Skills Portable
Using digital badges to create portable evidence of skill proficiency offers numerous benefits to students, employers, and educators. Badges provide students with tangible recognition of attainment that belongs to them and helps both traditional non-traditional programs speak a common language of skills and connected learning experiences. In addition to visual cues, digital badges also give employers a machine-readable way to evaluate the skills of potential applicants within applicant tracking systems and HRIS systems. With Badgr, learners can collect badges from multiple sources and build personal Learner Records to share across the Internet on job applications and within professional networks like LinkedIn.
Skill-aligned digital badging programs such as New World of Work are leveraging the power of the Badgr ecosystem to create reskilling and upskilling opportunities that lead to improved employment and training outcomes, while helping lifelong learners unlock new possibilities and navigate a rapidly changing labor market.