Badging & Certification

IBM Expands its Digital Badge Program: First joint badge with an academic institution

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By David Leaser

At some of IBM’s US facilities, as many as one-third of our employees have less than a four-year college degree.

There are a surging number of exciting, good paying jobs in today’s tech industry that do not require a traditional college degree. These roles are in some of the technology industry’s fastest growing fields, from cybersecurity and cloud computing to cognitive business, blockchain and digital design.  These aren’t “blue collar” or “white collar” jobs, they’re “new collar” roles that prioritize capabilities over degrees.

At any given time, IBM has thousands of job openings in the United States. At some of IBM’s US facilities, as many as one-third of our employees have less than a four-year college degree. Last year, new collar candidates without a four-year degree accounted for 15% of all IBM hiring in the United States.

Like others in our industry, we cannot find enough candidates with the right mix of in-demand technology skills to fill all of those positions.

IBM + Wake Tech: Issuing first joint IBM digital badges

IBM is creating new pathways to careers in IT and democratizing IT with its focus on programs which rapidly building skills. 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.

And now, IBM has developed its first joint digital badge program in collaboration with Wake Technical Community College. Wake Tech is North Carolina’s largest community college, serving more than 74,000 adults annually. Beginning this fall, students at Wake Tech can enroll in a new, state-of-the-art technology capstone course focused on blockchain technology. The accredited course has been developed with IBM, a leader in blockchain.

Zero to Blockchain

“Zero to Blockchain,” was developed by IBM Distinguished Engineer Bob Dill and includes virtual and classroom learning. Students will design and develop a course registration project using Hyperledger Composer, which helps students design, create, test, and demonstrate blockchain applications in a “sandbox” environment, without the need to know specific programming languages.

IBM will serve as judges for the capstone projects, and students will be able to earn co-branded IBM Wake Tech blockchain badges as a signal of their achievement. IBM digital badges are verifiable credentials built on the Open Badges specification, making them easy to share. They can also, automatically, build a digital resume for the student.

“Working with IBM on blockchain technology offers students hands-on, real world experience, through practice, problem solving and mentoring with experts. This is the kind of training that Wake Tech excels in, preparing students with advanced learning and significant skills training which will lead to real jobs in a competitive marketplace,” Dr. Stephen Scott, Wake Tech president, said.

The demand for blockchain skills: Why collaboration is necessary

IBM is a leader in blockchain technology and solutions and collaboration with institutions like Wake Tech will help develop a pipeline of talent for IBM and its ecosystem. “The demand for blockchain solutions in organizations of all sizes all over the world is growing exponentially. In order to meet this demand, companies like IBM that are delivering these solutions need significant resources,” Jerry Cuomo, VP of Blockchain Technology at IBM, said. “Our work with Wake Tech to offer coursework and mentoring of faculty, as well as students, is an example of how we can start cultivating that talent right here in the Triangle area.”

IBM and New Collar: Developing an inclusive IT workforce

A recent Georgetown study found that the number of highly-skilled jobs that do not require a Bachelor’s degree — what we at IBM call new collar jobs — increased from 27 million in 1991 to 30 million today. That represents 40% of the employed workers in the US ages 25-64.

With its 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. Innovation 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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