Case Study EEGA Groep
EEGA is a company that creates opportunities for people with a distance to the labour market. EEGA has the slogan 'extra-ordinary development of people'; they mediate young adults with severe problems, age 17-27 years, to the labour market in the provinces Overijssel and Gelderland, offering them learning opportunities, internships and matching to industries.
EEGA is not within the formal educational framework, but do give out certificates that are used at the labour market such as ‘safety in your work’ and ‘hygiene standards’. They also check which work skills the youngster already has and add this in a description on the certificate. EEGA is trying to bridge the work they do to formal education, though they are concerned that the current education system alone creates dropouts.
Badges can be an instrument for the cases where the formal education system goes wrong. At EEGA they try to answer the question ‘How do you capitalize on what is possible and how can you make that visual?’ EEGA use badges to give recognition to both measurable competences and soft skills which are related to what is needed in the labour market. Using BadgeCollect through an organisation called Inversable, they are currently making diverse badges for the catering industry, construction building with straw, ICT, 3D printing, and windmill construction. These badges connect EEGA to the new formal education curriculum (=new education and new curriculum formal education connection). .
Badges can make the feedback loop in learning shorter. For example not asking feedback only at the end of an apprenticeship, but making smaller steps and reward them with a badge.
Issuing badges motivates the youngsters giving them more self-esteem, making them have more fun in learning and giving them tools to use in finding a job. It creates a positive vibe around learning. Badges can be used as a development tool for the youngsters.
At the moment the company has 30 to 40 badges that can be issued to participants. When a participant has completed an internship, the personal work coach of EEGA evaluates the learning together with the internship supervisor at the workplace. The work coach fills in the form, passes it on to the technical person related to badges, who issues the digital badge. EEGA issues the badges, but the description of the badges states that the connected employer acknowledges it.
EEGA groep has its own network of employers, municipalities and government and say that it is good to involve as many parties as possible. Many people and organizations in their network are curious about digital badges and EEGA's badging programme can help other organsiations see the benefits of digital badges.
Saxion, formal education in the region, started to use edubadges, creating an opportunity for EEGA to connect with them and cooperate in the development of the badges and how it can be linked to each other.
Badgecollect is the issuing platform EEGA uses which is made by Inversable. Inversable wants to support the eco-systems of the future by using the open technology of Open Badges. Their vision is that the use of badges gives added value in connection to the labour market. Inversable focus on the area of the city of Deventer and connect organizations within the open platform. This makes it a local/region community of 30-40 organizations. You can see and use badges made by others in the region. Inversable believes that badges are best used within a community where people and organizations know each other, ’speak each others' language’ and can check references.
Although the labor market is in search for personnel there is a mismatch between them and people with a distance to the labour market in search for a job. It seems education and employers are from two different worlds. A badge from a known employer can be of more value than a diploma. But even in these times of shortage in the labour market, diploma’s are valued highly. It is time to have a new view at the labor market and badges can give the power to the jobseeker instead of all the organizations who are out there to match jobseekers to employers.
EEGA was involved in creating the Boris method of SBB. SBB brings senior secondary vocational education and business together. The Boris method is developed for youngsters who are not able to finalize a formal education, but have apprenticeships at accredited work placement companies, getting awarded with a certificate on what competences they have shown there. After the piloting period they were not able to participate in the Boris method anymore as they are not an official VET. However, in this period they learned about Open Badges and pragmatically they started to use them. The method to show what is learned was already part of the organisation, badges fitted well in this working method.
Initially there was resistance from the management which questioned if the company could gain financially from badges. The ‘believers’ had to convince them that the use of badges is good for education, good for work and useful for the core mission of EEGA group. EEGA must demonstrate what the participant can do and show this to an employer. Badges makes this process human; With Open Badges, anyone can pass on to others what they find important.
EEGA got the funding for this project from the province Overijssel. They applied for a labour subsidy with the project ‘with a badge a match’ to start experimenting with badges. They started just before the Covid-19 pandemic which was not an easy start. The pilot project was until March 2022, and part of the outcome is a Toolbox for companies.
The next step is to make more people within the EEGA group aware and enthusiastic about using badges and make it standard to use them throughout the company. For example to convert internship evaluation forms into badges. The already existing form was a tool for the supervisor to discuss what the participant learned from the internship. It was outdated, we re-described them with descriptions to make behavior easier to measure. The form was already an undercover badge; we make the content more explicit in a badge.
In Retrospect... Lessons learned
Start from the ideology of your organization. Search for what is already happening within the company but maybe not registered properly. Skills can be described; look at which ones are useful. What do you really need to help people? It takes time as an organization to set this up and look at the needs in the organization. Knowledge platforms are needed, meeting others with the same mission and vision and being able to find each other and exchange experiences.
To increase the value of badges, they should be made more uniform.
Everyone is working on it from his or her own interest. Tell 10 people about badges and you will get 10 interpretations of what a badge is. E.g. 'We can easily link it to work’, 'badge as a panacea on the labor market' 'a tool for learning hard skills’. You can use digital badges in different ways. How you will describe a badge, the content, determine its value. It is very important that the content and description of a badge is correct. The value is partly from who publishes it, partly what the description is. It is the recognition within an ecosystem.
For others, like accountants who never heard of a badge before or don’t accept ‘home-made badges’ we call them certificates so that they can understand and accept them.