Can digital badges help young people talk to employers?

Edward Emond (he/him)
Head of Youth Engagement

You may have recently read about the YouthNet commissioned research that found a startling number of young people have misplaced confidence in their ability to communicate with potential employers.

This worrying trend is a key driver for a number of projects that we are working on here at YouthNet. The project aim to provide a multi-pronged response to reverse this trend.

Thanks to funding from Erasmus+ we are excited to be working in collaboration with Centre for Digital Youth Care in Denmark to develop young people’s skills and help them to communicate these skills to employers via digital badges.

So what is a digital badge?

Digital badges are a way of displaying and validating both off and online skills digitally. Developed by Mozilla, badges concisely explain information to employers’ on areas such as; who issued the badge, the work required to earn one and the skills the badge represents.

We believe that digital badges will become a key mechanism for communicating skills with employers, especially given the shift away from more formal qualifications by leading employers.

How are we working to develop this?

As a starting point, we enlisted support from both young people and corporates, volunteering their time to steer the development of our first digital badge. This is essential in the success of the project as without buy-in from both parties our badge will have no use.

Back in August, we ran a co-creation session with a mix of recruitment professionals and young people currently looking for work, to understand what people know about badges, and importantly what they would want a badge to accredit. During the day, participants created a number of badges in small groups.

Whilst the initial knowledge of badges was limited, the concept proved popular across both parties. Young people were particularly interested in improving their digital image to engage employers.

Of the concept a volunteer said: “We live in a digital age – badges give a good tool in showing our skills”

What we learnt

The key insights we gained from the co-creation were:

  • Young people and employers agreed that the badge created needed credibility to encourage them to use digital badges. Credibility could be gained through partnering with an expert in the field.
  • The skills that employers would like to be represented by a badge include; initiative, leadership, team work, digital fundamentals, problem solving and communication.
  • Young people want badges to demonstrate soft-skills that are hard to describe and communicate with employers.
  • For a badge to be worth having, employers and young people wanted a level of exclusivity – if everyone has the same badge, it won’t help an applicant stand out.
  • Employers wanted the badge to clearly demonstrate what the applicant has done to earn it.

What did our volunteers say about the day?

“It was a unique workshop that pushes one to think creatively and have fun with incredible people.”

“Badges gives something tangible from completing online training.”

“Badges would make it easier to talk about the skills that I have.”

What are we doing next?

The next stage is to replicate these co-creation sessions in Denmark before deciding on the final concept of the badge. We want to test these insights to see if they are reflected trans-nationally so that our digital badge can translate across the EU.


Published on 20-Nov-2015