What we are witnessing are a series of phenomena that are deeply changing the labour market and the educational and training systems.
A gradual weakening of the ability of Educational system and the potential crisis of credentials. An increasing importance of the informal dimension of learning, in particular linked to:
- The role of so-called soft skills, in other words social behaviours, habits and ways of being
- The role of non-formal learning opportunities, both within the formal training structures and in the unintended learning contents, that contribute to learn and acquire of skills, soft in particular, but also practical (hard).
The centrality of the theme of competencies, as concrete "knowing how-to-do something" or "knowing how to show a certain behavior". As a consequence, the growing importance of evidence of such capabilities, explicit, observable, evaluable and therefore improvable, within paths not necessarily formal and institutional.
The decisive role of relational systems and thus of social capital into the recruitment processes, in terms of:
- Importance of the referral system, that rely on the referrer capability to replace somehow the role of formal certification of the competencies the referee owns, especially the soft ones, or to be more reliable and credible.
- The importance of endorsements and the reliability of their process, the crucial role that play social networks and the ”strength of weak ties” within them, the role of trust.
At the same time on the labour market, the traditional separation between primary market, made up of stable jobs, job positions, professional profiles - and secondary, precarious and occasional market, is losing significance and impermeability.
Likewise, immense social challenges, such as the issue of migration and mobility of millions of people, point out dramatic effect on educational and training systems. The need is to identify their level of knowledge and the types of skills that can be useful to the success of the integration process, both social and professional, formal and indeed informal. Migrants also need to become aware of their potential in relation to the new labour market they have to approach.
Digital Open Badges are the current trending proposal as “common currency” to define skills, competencies and achievements. They are usually issued against an evidence. Emerging technology like blockchain allows to create a decentralized digital “Competence Ledger”, where transactions are referred to by the recordings of skills acquired.
All these facts have led us to decide on how to initiate concrete experiments with Open Badges and Blockchain applied to the recognition of skills, especially informal ones.
The strategic goal is to try to create processes, methodologies and IT tools able to combine rigorous process of skills assessment, informal recognition, social network based reputation systems, to go beyond the value of formal recognition of educational and educational systems. The aim is to contribute to create a “Decentralized Competence Assessment Ecosystem” distributed, sharing same rules about the assessment and accreditation process, as well as the tools and the methodologies applied. Minimum criteria - without wich the badges would have no value in the job market - must be defined.
To do this we started a pilot project in which we have developed process, methodology and evaluation tools that we have applied experimentally to some of the soft skills that are objective of specifics activities inside of our undergraduate course in management, dedicated to learn these competencies and realized by a team of coachers. We have tested a method of assessment based on evidences on the basis of which results a badge of different level is issued, according to the degree of evidence of the behaviors that demonstrate the acquisition of these skills. Next steps will be to extend the experiment to other competencies, both soft and hard, but of meta-level. At the same time, we conducted a social network analysis on all of our students to understand how the informal peer mechanisms recognizes the degree of leadership. The aim is to try to understand how formal and reputational assessment could work together and ow to balance them. We want to avoid the risk of simply reproduce the current formal approach in a different way, but at the same time to avoid to lose rigor and trustworthiness, without which the Badges may be marginalized and overwhelmed by the consolidated mainstream.
In the next months, we are launching similar experiments applied to the field of recognition of past competencies of asylum seekers, where we are going to explore how to apply blockchain technology in order to create a portable “Competence ledger”; to the skills acquired in volunteering activities of young people seeking job, issuing a Badge.
With IQC and other stakeholders, we are defining a generalizable method in order to produce guidelines for the Badges that we'll create so to share a commune ground of information for our communities of practice.