Monday, Nov. 16, 2020
This year, Virginia Commonwealth University became the first higher education institution in the Capital Region, which includes Richmond, Washington and Baltimore, to issue web-enabled digital badges to students completing the Capital CoLAB Digital Tech Credential.
The VCU College of Engineering worked with the Greater Washington Partnership — a nonprofit civic alliance of employers and entrepreneurs representing businesses from Baltimore to Richmond — to begin offering this credential two years ago. It gives students from any major (except computer science) technology skills that leading employers have identified as most in demand, now and over the next five years.
Students can earn the badge, which can be posted to LinkedIn, by taking three of four online computer science courses that have been designed specifically for nontechnical majors. Students who opt to take all four courses can also earn a baccalaureate certificate in the fundamentals of computing.
The digital badges, which have become a trusted method for real-time training verification, contain metadata describing the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired, as well as how and where students earned the credential.
Charles Osei was among the first at VCU to earn the Capital CoLAB Digital Generalist badge, a credential that carries exclusive internship and hiring advantages with major companies throughout the region.
An interdisciplinary studies major, Osei completed courses in computers, programming, data science and cybersecurity to earn the generalist credential, which provides students in non-STEM majors sought-after digital technology skills.
The Ghana native advises other students to “go for it.”
“Take the courses and get the experiences,” he said. “You will learn that you can do a lot of things. It’ll also make you better at whatever you’re already into. The sky’s the limit.”
Osei reflected on the process of earning the badge and how it fits in with his future plans.
Why did you decide to earn the CoLAB badge?
I always say I’m a “hybrid tech person.” I want to be able to do anything and everything in terms of technology, so when my adviser told me about the badge, I was interested. I’m all about being versatile. Knowing about software engineering, data science and cybersecurity will give me more options. And I like having an actual badge to put on LinkedIn. That way the world can see what I am capable of and have accomplished.
What did you like best about the process of earning the badge?
I liked the fact that it was all online. That was a good experience, because it gives you more time to complete the assignments. The professors I had were great and always available.
What was the biggest challenge?
The one thing I was worried about was that it wouldn’t be interactive, but it was more interactive than I thought. Another student in the program and I worked on a few projects together.
What is your career path? How did getting this credential fit in?
After VCU, I want to work in [Northern Virginia] or D.C. My goal is to be a computer systems analyst. But, really, after graduation, I want to do different jobs within the IT field, not just one job for the rest of my life. Getting the badge will definitely boost my chances for finding jobs in the D.C. area. And it’ll be good for the other thing, too, having different jobs over the years. My main requirement is that I get to solve problems and help people.
Have you already used any of the skills you gained from the program?
Most definitely. I’m very comfortable working in [the] Python [programming language] now, which before I always thought was only for “tech people.” Cybersecurity skills was one of my favorite classes. I want to get more hands on and am thinking of joining the VCU Cybersecurity Club. I’ve also built two websites from scratch — one about me and one for a company.
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