Project Q&A With: The National Manufacturing Badge System

Project Q&A With: The National Manufacturing Badge System

The National Manufacturing Badge System will recognize the wide range of skills, competencies, and achievements that students and workers need to be competitive in today’s Advanced Manufacturing workplace. The National Manufacturing Badge System will supplement formal learning requirements and pathways, providing individuals with an additional online platform to convey their knowledge and skills to employers.

The National Manufacturing Badge System (M-Badge) project team consists of  (a) The Manufacturing Institute, for project management, oversight as well as the development of content, communications and outreach to employers about the value of the M-Badge holders , (b)  Degreed, Inc & Lumen Learning, LLC to lead the technology requirements & infrastructure for seamless awarding of the M-badge to eligible students , and two youth organizations—Skills USA and Project Lead the Way to lead the M-badge implementation and sustainability effort with eligible students in their manufacturing and STEM related programs.

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

The primary audience for the M-badge is students who meet the eligibility requirements identified by the two youth organizations. The criteria identified, although different across the two organizations, were selected to ensure integrity of both hands-on learning and demonstrated career interest in manufacturing and/or STEM-related fields. Secondary audiences include instructors and employers.

What were your initial goals for the badges? Did those goals change at all throughout the design process?

The National Manufacturing Badges System is intended to: engage today’s world-class talent; recognize their skills, achievements and potential; and, connect them to in-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing.  M-Badges indicate that an individual has the potential to be successful in manufacturing careers.  They are the digital representation of core technical and career skills, as well as hands-on experience, which are essential for employment in manufacturing careers. The Badge system is allowing for a streamlined method of matching job-seekers and students to employers. It is also allowing us to better reach potential talent and market opportunities in manufacturing. The M-Badges also serve as a more simple, yet comprehensive, translation of gained knowledge, skills and abilities into career-ready skill sets. The M-Badge is an enhancement to formal certification pathways, and is an effective incentivizing tool to get students to pursue education/ training programs that give them the industry credentials they need for jobs in manufacturing.

How was the criteria for the badges determined. What pedagogies (if any) informed the learning and badge system design?

Design and criteria for the M-badge were identified during a facilitated working session with representatives from The Manufacturing Institute, Skills USA and Project Lead the Way. Consensus was reached that the definition or value proposition for the M-badge is “Manufacturing digital badge holders have successfully met a NAM-endorsed criteria of demonstrated knowledge and applied skills in manufacturing and applied skills in manufacturing and STEM fields making them attractive candidates for employment or continued education”. Although the criteria for eligibility to earn a M-badge are different across the two youth organizations, each organization selected their criteria to ensure integrity of the badge.

M-badge eligibility for Project Lead the Way’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing Badge (PLTW CIM Badge) include: 1) Completion of their 2-semester CIM course, and 2) a score of 85% or higher on the end of year exam.

M-badge eligibility for Skills “SkillsUSA Manufacturing Prep Badge” are those who compete in the following contests at the national SkillsUSA Championships: Automated Manufacturing Technology; Career Pathways – Industrial & Engineering Technology; CNC Milling; CNC Turning; Electronics Technology; Engineering Technology/Design; Industrial Motor Control; Mechatronics; Mobile Robotics Technology; Precision Machining Technology; Principles of Technology; Related Technical Math; Robotics & Automation Technology; Technical Drafting; Welding; Welding Fabrication
Outstanding questions at this time are related to keeping an eye on sustainability of the badge system by minimizing the impact on staff time to support the process without compromising the integrity of the badge or the importance of meeting FERPA requirements to ensure student safety.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

The three main challenges are:

  1. The ability for student data to be made available to the national headquarters of our partner youth organizations to identify eligibility and market the program to students
  2. Sustaining the project beyond the period of performance where staff time is required for implementation in organizations where capacity is already stretched thin
  3. Although we are not yet at this stage, another anticipated challenge will be in recruiting employers to “buy-in” to the value proposition of the M-badge and open their doors to student and alumni badge holders. 

What are the top 3 factors that the success of your badge system are contingent upon?

Success of our badge system is contingent upon:

  • The unique position of the Institute as the workforce arm to the largest industry association with access to the manufacturing community as well as programmatic platforms to market the value of the badge system to industry leaders and policy influencers; 
  • The access the youth organizations—Project Led the Way and Skills USA have to students, instructors and outcomes-based manufacturing and STEM-related curricula that is already being delivered in classrooms across the country; and
  • The selection of our youth partners and their commitment to sustain the badge system is critical.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system?

Plans are in place for national impact by leveraging the youth organizations existing local programs and  plans are under development for scaling the program to include alumni from both organizations who meet the eligibility requirements.

We are working with our youth organizations to ensure that the badging process that is put in place—from students’ awareness of the program to students’ eligibility, awarding/retrieval of the badge and leveraging of the badge for work-based learning opportunities, employment or continued education—is built into the their existing programs and communications infrastructure.  This will be necessary for the badging system to be sustained.

The Institute is an enthusiastic supporter of open source learning and strengthening the integrity of the badge system ecosystem. We are currently involved in another digital badge project to support veterans entering the workforce and communicating their military skills into industry credentials recognized by employers. We will continue to work in strengthening and striving to add value to the badging ecosystem beyond the scope of our Badges for Lifelong Learning grant period of performance.

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