Skillnet Calls to Develop Digital Badges in Food Sector - Skillnet Ireland

First Digital Badges awarded in the Food and Agri-food Sectors

Apr 16th, 2019

(from left to right) Professor Paul McSweeney, Vice-President for Learning and Teaching, UCC, Taste 4 Success Skillnet Network Manager, Bridie Corrigan Matthews, Skillnet Ireland Executive Director, Tracey Donnery, Dr Amy-Jane Troy, Food Industry Training Unit UCC and Ms Mary McCarthy-Buckley, Manager of the Food Industry Training Unit.

First Digital Badges awarded in the Food and Agri-food Sectors

Tuesday, 16 April 2019: A new study published today has recommended that Ireland’s first ever use of digital badges within the food and agri-food industry be explored as an innovative solution to promoting and recognising upskilling within the sector. Digital Badge technology is still a relatively new international learning technology. This research presents the growing international trend in awarding digital badges to recognise learning, and the opportunities this presents for Irish enterprise. This study is also the first to develop digital badge credentials through a third level academic institution in an enterprise context in Ireland.

The research from Taste 4 Success Skillnet and the Food Industry Training Unit at University College Cork found that digital badges are an effective tool to recognise achievement in learning for individuals within a workforce development context.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. welcomed the timely initiative and highlighted the importance of upskilling to the agri-food sector;

“As Ireland’s largest indigenous industry supporting jobs in all regions, access to a skilled and motivated workforce is key to the success of the agri-food sector. I welcome initiatives that help deliver structured career pathways for employees in the sector and I applaud the work of key stakeholders such as Skillnet Ireland and UCC coming together to explore innovative ways of promoting and recognising lifelong learning.”

The MacArthur Foundation introduced the digital badge or digital certificate concept in the US in 2011. This image or icon acts as an indicator of a competency, learning, or skill. One click of a digital badge and a prospective employer or client can see all of your accomplishments.

Paul Healy, Chief Executive of Skillnet Ireland said;

“Ireland is a small open economy. However, we are vulnerable to global megatrends, so we need to ensure we are at the cutting edge of digitisation if our domestic workforce is to continue to remain competitive. Making use of technological advancements provides us with the opportunity to become a world class leader in the agri-food sector which is a particularly important sector for Ireland.

At Skillnet Ireland we want to empower workplace progression, by providing access to valuable skills and recognition to learners. We would strongly encourage all stakeholders to consider this research report and explore how digital badges could help transform workforce upskilling and development in your sector.”

As part of this study, UCC awarded digital badges to two programmes for the agri-food sector in Food Processing Engineering and Artisan Food Marketing. 53 trainees from 47 SMEs within the agri-food sector were successfully awarded digital badges for these programmes. These courses that had not previously held any formal award certification were undertaken during October and December 2018.

Taste 4 Success Skillnet Network Manager, Bridie Corrigan Matthews said introducing digital badges in training programmes would encourage more people to engage in upskilling;

“Digital Badges are still a relatively new international learning technology. We believe digital badge micro-credentials presents a quantum leap in capturing and awarding value for learning and knowledge gathered in the workplace,” said Mrs. Corrigan Matthews.

“This research considers the growing international trends in digital badge awards, and the national opportunities available to the Irish food and agri-food sectors, in particular, in developing such awards to promote continued lifelong learning,” she added.

Professor Paul McSweeney, Vice-President for Learning and Teaching, UCC adds;

“We anticipate that UCC’s digital badges will be of great value, empowering staff of the Irish food industry by documenting their continuing professional development and motivating them to attain cutting-edge skills.”

The findings of this report will now be shared with relevant stakeholders including participating enterprises, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, industry bodies and employer groups.

To read the report in full, please click here.

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