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Seven colleges and universities are working with industry partners to develop digital badges to help underserved students display their skills and gain employment as part of a pilot project called #TeeUpTheSkills.

The yearlong initiative is being led by the Education Design Lab, a nonprofit that specializes in designing and implementing new learning models. Ed-tech companies Credly and Checkster will be providing pro bono services to the pilot, which will run this academic year.

The project aims to identify skills required by employers to fill in-demand entry-level positions, and to help minority students gain and display these skills with digital badges. The name #TeeUpTheSkills refers to the concept of "T-shaped workers" -- employees who have technical skills as well as "horizontal" skills that help them successfully collaborate, problem solve, communicate and empathize with and lead others. “Microcredentials have gained a lot of traction quickly,” said Kathleen deLaski, founder and president of the Education Design Lab. “But to fulfill the promise that they will help students articulate hireability skills and make them digitally visible to employers, we need hiring managers to give us clearer ‘market signals’ to validate these as credentials.”

Employers participating in the project have agreed to look at the résumé of any student who acquires the badges deemed necessary for different job pathways. The employers will also track short-term hiring outcomes.

The following universities and employers are participating: