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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: Pamela Crespin, Feather River Consortium

Curriculum and Digital Badging: Preparing Adult Learners for a Global Economy

The Challenge

Educators and workforce development providers face the challenge of preparing adult learners for the emerging global economy, where it is projected by the year 2020 up to 50 percent of the workforce will be contingent or freelance – members of the “Gig Economy.” Even non-gig workers are facing huge changes in the way work has been done in the past due to the integration of technology into formerly traditional workplaces. This requires a set of skills such as adaptability, digital literacy and communication, which all students must have to ensure their employability. Yet these professional soft skills are often not formally taught, and many adult learners are not aware of the soft-skills areas they need to hone in on to be better prepared for the future workforce. Members of the Feather River Adult Education Consortium wanted to ensure adult learners in their region were given the opportunity to acquire these critical soft skills.

The Solution

The Feather River consortium partnered with Feather River College, using career technical education (CTE), economic workforce development (EWD), and adult education grants to develop a series of classroom-based lessons and videos focused on building 21st-century employability skills, or soft skills. The curriculum is designed to be used in tandem with workplace learning experiences so students can first review the skill and then implement it in a real-world setting. As a pilot, the curriculum was taught within an internship class to Feather River College students, who ranged from traditional-aged first-time college students (including those formerly in foster youth services) to re-entering adult learners.

In addition to the curriculum, digital badges for each of the skills were developed in collaboration with the Foundation for California Community Colleges through their LaunchPath platform. This allows students to take assessments to earn badges after they complete the soft skills training. The badges also incorporate an employer feedback loop. This allows any learner who is also involved in work-based learning the opportunity to send their badge to their host employer for verification of the skill in action, a competency in the workplace. The badges will allow data tracking on an entirely new level to show internship/career attainment as a direct result of skills-based training.


Due to the local success of integrating the 21st-Century Soft Skills curriculum into workplace learning at Feather River College, an application was submitted and funded through the Industry Driven Regional Collaborative (IDRC) grant. This grant allowed a pilot of 13 California community colleges across the state to work together over a two-year period implementing the soft-skills curriculum in courses on their own campuses. Those participating in this Community of Practice shared feedback about how successful the curriculum was with students, feedback from employers hosting students who were exposed to the curriculum, and input on refining the lesson content. The culmination of the IDRC grant period was official endorsement by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office of the program, now named the New World of Work 21st Century Employability Skills Series.

The program is now available to all 114 California Community Colleges, as well as education and workforce development organizations across the country. Lesson content can be accessed open source through the New World of Work website, as well as through two-day trainings to help prepare instructors to deliver the curriculum and digital badging content to their learners. The trainings are open to community college instructors and staff, adult education providers, workforce development staff, and K-12 educators.

The Data

To date, New World of Work has 22 official partner colleges in the California Community Colleges system. The team has hosted ten trainings for regional consortia across the state, with 10 more scheduled for 2017 and bookings starting for 2018. On average, 1,000 students go through the New World of Work content each term through courses across disciplines, as well as campus workshops. In addition, workforce development agencies partnering with their local education providers are also using the skills curriculum to help serve their job-seeking clients. The state of California, through the Civil Service Improvement (CSI) project, identified the New World of Work program as their official model of reference in aligning the skills existing and incoming state workers need to show competency in the workplace.

Supporting Information

New World of Work website

21st-century skills videos

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