Education Design Lab’s research has shown employers and educators alike believe 21st century skills (aka soft skills, or durable skills) are essential for young people entering the workforce.
In 2021, the Lab and the Polk County School District in Florida embarked on Propel Polk!, a first-in-the-nation pilot to teach 21st century skills to 11th and 12th graders, and award digital micro-credential badges upon completion. The project was funded by the Catalyze Challenge.
Naomi Boyer, the Lab’s Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation, happens to live in Polk County, which is how she knew Steve Cochran, who serves as Senior Director of Workforce Education and Multiple Pathways for Polk County Public Schools.
Steve was familiar with micro-credentials through his past work with Naomi, but he wasn’t sure how to bring them into a high school system. “I knew they had potential to be a real game-changer for some of our students,” he said.
After working with project partners Polk Vision and the Central Florida Development Council, and using the Lab’s popular T-Profile tool to understand the needs of area employers, the Propel Polk! project team focused on three micro-credentials:
- Critical Thinking
- Oral Communication
The Lab’s micro-credentials were branded with the school district colors and awarded to more than 50 students who could share on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. The school system plans to expand micro-credentials in the future.
In our October 2023 video podcast, Steve talks about how they worked through the initial challenges of implementing micro-credentials, and how they have been a natural connector for Polk County’s career and technical education (CTE) and academic programs.
Here are a few highlights from our interview with Naomi and podcast host Ayanna Conway:
What’s the difference between a skills badge and a micro-credential?
How do you begin to measure a skill like empathy?
How do micro-credentials help high school students get employed?
What’s the most difficult part of implementing micro-credentials?
What’s the future of micro-credentials in Polk County?
Watch the full episode on YouTube: