Digital badges recognize marketable experiences

For college graduates, having credentials can be a huge appeal to employers. At the College of Business, a new digital badge program further expands business students’ opportunities to earn professional distinctions, so they can kickstart their careers and showcase key skills gained from high-impact experiences at school. 

Katie Hillyer, director of the Office for Professional Distinction, said sometimes it can be hard for employers to understand or verify a recruit’s experiences. These digital badges, displayed on LinkedIn and other digital networking websites, can fill that gap. 

“Badges are a verified recognition for students,” Hillyer said. “It validates their skills and college experiences so when they are applying for jobs, people in their network and employers can see their accomplishments. They can use it as an opportunity to further distinguish themselves from the market.”

The move toward developing in-house badges follows the college's long-standing emphasis on external credentials. The accounting program has embedded review courses for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation in its curriculum for decades with outstanding results. Building on that, the finance program aligns its curriculum with multiple credential opportunities, including the CFA® and CFP® while the Professional Readiness Program® (PRP) offers external certifications through Microsoft, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and Franklin Covey. 

Spencer Johnson (Supply Chain Management, Finance and Economics, ’21) earned Microsoft Office Specialist Excel Expert certification through PRP, which teaches students about the basics — and even more advanced tools — of Excel, which is a crucial program for many careers in business. 

Johnson said the certification helped him at his recent internship as a data analyst in Waterloo. 

“I found myself using it a lot,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of data techniques and formulas you can use to simplify work and automate it. I use that a lot to get more information about the numbers and running mathematical programs to get answers.” 

As a tutor, he encourages his students to sign up and get certified. 

The move to develop College of Business badges provides even more options to recognize the preparation and skills a student has acquired through their participation in high-impact educational experiences. The digital badge that students can earn for their engagement in the Early Founders Program is a great example. 

Early Founders Program BadgeThe UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center Early Founders Program is an eight-week program with a focus on solidifying student entrepreneurs' business model by identifying the riskiest assumption and creating tests to validate those assumptions with customers. These students are entrepreneurs working to start their own businesses. The skills developed in this program, business model development, critical thinking, strategic thinking, to name a few, are valuable to employers seeking employees who can solve problems, develop products and services, and increase value.

Aleah Vaske, Human Resource major and president of the Entrepreneurs Club, was selected to participate in the Early Founders Program. “After working on my business all summer through the Early Founders Program instead of doing a traditional internship, it was so rewarding to be awarded a Credly badge. This meant that I could communicate the value of the experience to prospective employers and show them that it was credible, which is something that is crucial for a student entrepreneur."

College of Business students will find even more ways to distinguish themselves as the number of digital badges grows. 

“We want to help students make their experiences more marketable, and this is another way to do that,” Hillyer said. “This will help when they are on the job market.”

Students who have questions can reach out to Hillyer at katie.hillyer@uni.edu. The digital badges for the college can be found here: 

https://www.credly.com/organizations/university-of-northern-iowa/badges