7 Key Steps to Create Successful Partnerships with Employers Using Alternative Credentials  

    Unlock the future of business education with our 7-step guide to digital credentials and strategic employer partnerships.
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    Business schools and employers strategizing partnership opportunities with digital badges

    Surging growth in the global market for alternative credentials is changing the game for business schools. A recent survey found that 71% of graduate business programs view alternative credentials as a critical strategy. Business schools are embracing certificates, micro-credentials and digital badges to meet market demand.

    When building an alternative credential program, collaborating with employers is essential to identify the skills needed in the job market. A recent UPCEA report, however, found that company-higher education partnerships are decreasing, in part due to barriers to collaboration.

    For business schools seeking to grow an alternative credential program, this seven-step checklist will help build a program that benefits the institution, students, and employers.

    Step 1

    Strategic Planning and Goal Setting

    Digital credentialing programs should start with governance and goals. A living governance document outlines a strategy and serves as a roadmap to success.

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    To make sure you have a robust foundation, make sure to:

    ●    Determine the mission of the program and set goals to clarify what you hope to achieve
    ●    Identify key performance indicators
    ●    Convene a governing body to generate buy-in, spread the workload and promote accountability
    ●    Establish a common language by defining the terminology the program will use
    ●    Consider credential frameworks with categories such as prerequisites, time to complete and assessment
    ●    Explore how credentials will age. Will there be expirations, will it need updating, or will it ever require revocation?

    Step 2

    Build a Team of Credential Champions

    The next step to success is assembling a team to champion digital credentials. This team should bring together internal and external expertise. Aligning with employer expectations creates enthusiasm and employer engagement.

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    To develop a team of experts, you should:

    • Identify internal team members to lead interactions, such as individuals with industry credibility
    • Identify internal staff who can be credential champions and translate course content into credentials employers want.
    • Seek industry leaders in digital credential development
    • Create employer working groups for feedback. A total of 10-15 employer voices from small, medium and large businesses is a manageable size that still taps into a wide spectrum of ideas and networks
    • Reach out to other collaborators, including workforce development professionals, labor organizations, chambers of commerce and community groups.

    Step 3

    Select Individual Employers for Partnership

    Avoid trying to meet the needs of all employers across multiple industries. Industry surveys and meetings with selected employers can identify opportunities.
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    To create an impactful partnership, make sure to:

    • Create industry surveys to understand what skill gaps exist and which skills boost student employability the most
    • Ask faculty to use information from employer surveys to see where existing offerings align with industry needs
    • Create industry and employer profiles with information about employment, retention and projected employment rates
    • Organize an industry or sector summit to define how digital credentials support industry goals. Include companies, internal subject matter experts, government representatives and other organizations
    • Establish working groups with internal staff and employer representatives to review what you’ve learned and explore badge ideas

    Step 4

    Develop Credentials

    The critical skill gaps and competencies identified by working groups are the cornerstones for high-quality digital badges. Creating detailed descriptions of each credential, rich in metadata, allows employers to easily understand the skills earners possess.

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    Here’s how you can create meaningful digital credentials:

    • Identify skill development areas based on what competencies are lacking
    • Begin creating a credential taxonomy to define what achievements the badges represent
    • Determine how individual credentials relate to each other within your credential system
    • Write a short narrative to describe each credential, what it represents and why it’s valuable
    • Determine what assessment criteria will need to be met
    • Design the look and feel of credentials to support your institutional brand

    Step 5

    Select an Alternative Credential Platform

    The right digital credentialing platform should seamlessly provide credential creation, issuance and management, plus data that tracks the program’s return on investment (ROI). Institutions should look for a platform that has a wide network to boost visibility and reach, robust security, integrations and a high level of customer support.

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    Consider these features:

    You can download our extensive checklist to help you choose the right digital credentialing platform for your institution.

    Step 6

    Develop Marketing

    With credential details finalized, it’s time to showcase their value to students and employers. Clear, compelling communication can boost brand recognition, increase enrollment and drive completion rates.

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    To build an effective marketing campaign, make sure to follow the below:

    • Prior to launch, develop messaging to clarify how digital credentials create opportunities for learners and employers.
    • Highlight industry collaboration.
    • Align your program with other initiatives, such as campaigns around student employability or alumni events.
    • Develop a marketing plan and calendar for promotions and public relations.
    • Encourage learners to share badges on social media.

    Step 7

    Analyze and Improve Continuously

    Lastly, make sure to analyze your digital credentialing project and identify what worked well and what didn’t. Share these to foster a culture of continuous improvement. This ensures future programs can build on your success, avoid potential pitfalls and boost adoption of digital credentials.

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    You can analyze the credentialing program by taking the following steps:

    • Debrief with employers to compare outcomes against the original objectives and determine the next steps.
    • Solicit feedback from faculty and learners; review analytics to identify areas for improvement.
    • Evaluate faculty and employer working groups to see where each provided additional value.

    Winning with Digital Credentials

    The future of business education lies in equipping graduates with the skills and credentials employers seek. By offering digital credentials with platforms like Credly and forging strategic partnerships with employers, your institution can boost students’ career prospects and be a leader in this new landscape.

    To learn more about the benefits of alternative credentials, complete the form below to download our whitepaper now!


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