No sewing required - young people to earn badges for digital skills

Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2 in the UK, talks about a brand new way to help young people prove their digital skills.

Despite the recognition that the UK is fast becoming a technology powerhouse, it is no secret that the business world is still in need of an influx of digital expertise and experience. We know from research we undertook with Development Economics that Britain still needs over two million additional digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential.

I have been banging the drum for young people to fill this need for many years, channelled in part through the efforts of our O2ThinkBig programme. Young people possess the native digital skills that our economy so desperately needs, but we’re still somewhat failing to connect the dots between the needs of employers and the talents of our nation’s young people.

Today marks the launch of the TechFuture Badge Academy. We at O2 have partnered with learning specialists DigitalMe and the Tech Partnership to launch a new way for young people to develop, capture and evidence digital and employability skills. And it might stir a bit of nostalgia in the Scouts and Girl Guides amongst us.

The idea is for young people (Key Stage 4 upwards) to earn badges when they demonstrate skills by completing exciting digital challenges. Based on the open badges concept – the global standard for capturing and communicating skills on the web – we will enable young people to earn and share the badges in a range of competencies, including both tech specific and interpersonal skills. The first badges to launch will cover cyber security, wearable tech, coding, employability and digital maker skills.

Those who know me will appreciate that I already have unwavering confidence in young people’s ability to face the digital challenge. Instead, my hope for this project is that the business world will start to take note of the talent on offer and be better guided to recognise the types of skills and expertise that they need to adequately transform their operation.

My message to business: Take note and add your own branded badges to the Academy, focused on the skills that your organisation particularly values. Only by doing so will we start to seek the right talent as a nation and meet our collective digital needs.

My message to schools: Help us to build the tools that will bridge the gap between education and the workplace, providing accreditation in a way that ensures relevance and continuity for young minds.

My message to young people: Metaphorically dust off your woggle and scarf and start building your badge bank. You’re a valuable national asset, and you just never know who might be scouting for your native digital talents.

You can follow me @RonanDunneO2 and find out more about the TechFuture Badge Academy here.