Nonprofit’s suite of digital badges connects employers and educators through powerful framework and curriculum to help students and early career workers develop and display critical mobility skills

WASHINGTON (April 25, 2018) – Americans are earning college degrees at an unprecedented rate, yet many college graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed. Postsecondary institutions struggle to deliver graduates who can articulate their skills, and employers have trouble vetting and screening candidates. To develop in-demand skills and streamline employers’ hiring process, Education Design Lab launches the 21st Century Skills Badges after three years of research, design and pilots.

The 21st Century Skills Badges offers a suite of eight microcredentials – or digital badges – and a facilitator’s toolkit to help education and industry leaders understand and evaluate students’ 21st century skills. Education Design Lab (The Lab) partnered with 12 universities and 50 employers to develop the badges, which students can display on LinkedIn accounts or resumes, and are designed to be “machine readable” by the increasing number of search algorithms that recruiters use to identify talent pools. 

“Now, more than ever, it is increasingly important to find candidates who are a good fit,” said Shonn Colbrunn, senior director of human resources at Spectrum Health System. “A resume will show what degree someone earns, but it is more difficult to gauge their level of interpersonal skills. The rigor that goes into earning a digital badge provides a helpful indicator of what we can expect to see from that person on the job.” 

The digital badges, developed in partnership with individual universities, each represent skills that employers are seeking in candidates:

• Initiative 

• Collaboration 

• Creative Problem Solving 

• Critical Thinking 

• Intercultural Fluency 

• Empathy 

• Oral Communication 

• Resilience

Beyond the pilot universities, over 100 learning institutions in higher education and K-12 signed up in advance of the broader release to consider implementing the 21st Century Skills Badges. 

"Creating and testing a badge earning process in partnership with The Lab has helped supplement our Community & Environmental Health program to focus on career preparation and match innovation in the workforce,” said Lillian Smith, department head and associate professor at Boise State University. “Our students who earn a 21st Century Skills badge will be at a competitive advantage in marketing their skills to employers.” 

To drive adoption of free and open badges for 21st century skills, The Lab invites employers, educators and students to join the #TeeUpTheSkills movement. The movement represents the T-Profile translation tool, a T shaped map that visualizes the ideal combination of technical skills and the 21st century skills for a particular job. The social media campaign urges the public to pledge commitment to adopt an accessible and consistent currency for credentials across the hiring landscape. 

“In a tightening job market, we need better signals than a resume to find candidates who are a good fit. We believe digital badges will be powerful market signals for employability, particularly in building more diverse hiring pools for roles where interpersonal skills matter more than technical know-how,” said Kathleen deLaski, founder of Education Design Lab. 

To join the movement toward a better future of work, follow and use the #TeeUpTheSkills hashtag on Twitter. 

“We are continually looking for ways to enhance our intensive training program and curriculum that we provide to low-income adults to assist in their obtaining college requirements and corporate internships,” commented Guylaine Saint Juste, executive director, Year Up National Capital Region. “Education Design Lab’s 21st Century Skills Badges are a natural fit for Year Up as we both focus on equipping more students and learners with the most in-demand skills employers are seeking to help them increase their short-term and long-term success." 

Institutions and employers can access the free suite of 21st Century Skills Badges at

Special Thanks The Lab would like to acknowledge the schools and organizations instrumental so far in piloting our 21st Century Skills Badges: 

Andrews University 

Aquinas College 

Bay Path University 

Boise State University 

George Mason University 

Georgetown University 

Hope College 

Makerere University 

Tunis Business School 

University of Arizona 




Michigan Colleges Alliance 

About Education Design Lab 

Education Design Lab is a 501c3 nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models and credentials that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. The Lab demonstrates where technology, rigor and design can improve opportunity for students to maximize their potential in the higher education system. 

Education Design Lab works across disciplines and alongside schools, employers, entrepreneurs, government, foundations, nonprofits and innovators. The organization has significant experience managing national and local learning cohorts, working with organizations such as The Lumina Foundation, UNCF, American Council on Education, Credly, and the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership. Learn more:

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