It all started with an e-mail. Sent by Eric Van Otteren, Snellville’s director of economic development, it contained a link and a question. The link was to an article about the city of West Sacramento, CA, starting a digital badge program for its residents. The question was, “What do you think?”
My response was, “Let’s do it”.
The only misgiving I had was the name- digital badge. At best it was non-descript. At worst, it was confusing. Would people think they could design a badge, print it out and boast to their friends that they were a deputized digital sheriff authorized to clean up the internet? Or would they think that it was the digital equivalent of a Boy Scout merit badge?
My eagerness to start a digital badge program in Snellville was partially inspired by conversations with college administrators. Those discussions were part of an effort to establish a satellite campus and have college courses offered in Snellville. Discussions with two colleges ran into budgetary and administrative roadblocks, but provided insight into current employment practices. Specifically, employers are looking beyond grade point averages and courses completed; they tend to favor applicants who have taken initiative to participate in out-of-classroom activities. Such activities are evidence that an applicant can put knowledge into practice.
One way to do that is to become an intern. Although interns receive little or no pay, they receive the benefit of being able to add a positive item to their resumes. Digital badges serve the same function.
Snellville’s digital badge program is available to anyone at no cost. You don’t have to live in the city, or even in the state of Georgia. And you don’t have to be a student. Although the program was created primarily for middle school, high school and college students, earning a digital badge is also a way for people already in the workforce to improve chances of getting a new job or a promotion.
Badges are typically created by companies, colleges, government agencies and civic organizations. Some are intended as self-help initiatives, others are designed to improve personal skills that will help employment opportunities.
The digital badge program is just one part of Snellville’s educational opportunity plan. Gwinnett Technical College is currently offering courses in the newly completed educational facility at city hall, and there is more to come. When the Towne Center is completed, it will house over 20,000 square feet of educational space.
Dave Emanuel is a Snellville City Councilman and small business owner.