Badging & Certification

Collaborating with a UK startup to develop hands-on IT skills for the New Collar workforce

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By David Leaser

IBM is creating new pathways to careers in IT and democratizing IT with its focus on skills over traditional degrees.

Those skills can be learned through 21st century vocational training, innovative public education programs like P-TECH (which IBM pioneered), coding camps, professional programs, like the IBM New Collar Certificate Program.

The IBM New Collar Certificate Program is an end-to-end program which goes beyond traditional learning. The program is designed to prepare candidates for the unexpected side of the work that cannot be taught in a classroom.


Experiential Learning = “learning by doing”

Experiential learning gives students a “hands on” experience they cannot get in the classroom, and they are growing in importance in IT as companies like IBM expand beyond traditional degree programs for candidates. Internships and apprenticeships are also growing. IBM is a strong advocate for the Perkins Act in the United States, a bill which is equipping America’s students with the skills to succeed in promising New Collar careers.

Jobs in the technology industry’s fastest growing fields — New Collar Jobs — demand candidates with the right mix of high-tech skills and do not always require a traditional Bachelor’s degree. And IBM is collaborating with organizations who can help build the next generation of IT talent.


IBM + TiN Smart Social: Collaborating to help solve the IT skills crisis in the UK

According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, an estimated 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people are needed by 2022 to satisfy the UK’s future skills needs. Tin Smart Social has been selected as one of 14 UK suppliers to help the Cooperative Council’s Innovation Network (CCIN) meet the unprecedented challenges facing the public sector and local communities in reskilling and upskilling digitally skilled workers.

Tin Smart Social, led by Alex Cole, former senior leader with Capgemini, has developed an innovative concept called “Digisheds” to develop hands-on skills for individuals who are underserved, undereducated or long term unemployed. Digisheds work upfront with potential employers who are actively looking to hire digitally skilled staff.  This “reverse” or pre-apprenticeship approach, working with employers and learners at the same time, ensures employers can select potential employees who are freshly skilled up with the precise skills needed for employment.

With this program, IBM can provide structured on-the-job evaluation, feedback tools and exams to ensure a non-biased, globally consistent assessment and prove candidates have the practical skills to do the job.


Digisheds Enterprise Digital Studios expose students to in-demand technologies and industry sectors

Enterprise Digital Studios are the final leg of a three-phase digital upskilling program which involves projects relevant to in-demand technologies or industry sectors. Each is adapted to the local community and is commissioned by local businesses and organizations.

Alex Cole, former senior leader with Capgemini, has developed an innovative concept called “Digisheds” to develop hands-on skills for individuals who are underserved, undereducated or long term unemployed.


With the involvement of the likes of IBM and other industry pioneers, Digisheds can prove to be an inspiring approach to opening a whole new world of skills and career paths that are relevant to the Digital Age and beyond.” ~ Amal Lad, ​ UK Head of SIAM​​, Sofigate​


These studios in the UK are set up to combine learning with experience of work. Entry-level to advanced job-based competencies and soft skills are developed in a personalized experiential setting.

Skills-based training is taught in a bootcamp style, leveraging a design-thinking lifecycle using projects which can simulate working life or deliver social impact for local enterprises and communities.

Students spend from half a day to two days per week in a work place to prepare for working life.

These studios develop employability skills, enterprise skills  and creative thinking ability which drives innovation.

Graduates are awarded nationally recognized and employer qualifications which create pathways to higher education, further education, apprenticeships and the labor market.

IBM’s focus on New Collar: A more dynamic, inclusive workforce

By focusing on new collar jobs, IBM wants to shift mindsets and make tech more diverse and inclusive. We want to bring in people with non-traditional backgrounds who built skills through coding camps, community colleges or modern career education programs. We want to attract people reentering the workforce or relaunching their career. And we want to create more jobs for people in parts of the world where tech jobs are scarce. This is about creating career opportunities outside the traditional boundaries.

With this emphasis on new collar jobs – skills over degrees — IBM is working to make the IT industry more inclusive, where skills are more important than degrees or geography. Innovative programs like the IBM Digital Badge Program, the IBM Skills Gateway and the IBM New Collar Certificate Programs are expanding the opportunities to develop the skills needed to prepare for a career in IT.


David Leaser is the senior executive of strategic growth initiatives for IBM’s Training & Skills program. Leaser developed IBM’s first cloud-based embedded learning solution and is the founder of IBM’s Digital Badge program. He served as the senior marketing lead for the IBM Smarter Workforce. Leaser is a Fellow at Northeastern University and a member of the Digital Learning Consortium and the IMS Global Consortium Board Advisory Group for Digital Credentials. He has provided guidance to the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education as an employer subject matter expert and is a frequent lecturer, speaker and panelist at events. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree from USC’s Annenberg School. You can reach David on LinkedIn or Twitter @david_leaser.

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