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Sussex Downs College

Industry and Education working together to support young people into employment.
Credentials co-created with employers
Skills for employment recognised
Completion rate achieved

How Sussex Downs are helping young people show the skills they need to succeed in the future workplace.

CBI research shows that 69% of businesses think education isn’t effectively preparing young people for work [1], especially around the skills needed for entry-level roles.

These ‘employability skills’ are often listed as communication, teamwork, planning and organising, literacy, problem solving, numeracy and IT. A 2017 study reports that these ‘Human skills’ are the hardest to automate and will be the most highly demanded skills in the future workforce. However, the same skills are often the hardest to surface, capture and communicate to employers. [2]

Sussex Downs College was already teaching many of these skills across the curriculum. However, they lacked a way to recognise these skills at scale and make them easy to communicate to local employers.

“Education needs to be about more than the transmission of knowledge, important as this is. The ability to create ideas and solve problems with others will be important to their chances of getting a good job, and to their prospects of living well and being good citizens. But policy makers and teachers need help in integrating this into their work.”
Photo of Geoff MULGAN

Chief Executive at Nesta

Bridging the gap between education and employment with an ‘Employability Passport’.

As a forward thinking college, Sussex Downs has been active in the emerging world of digital credentials and were interested how they could give all of their students an opportunity to showcase their skills and experience to employers in a digital and verifiable way.

To ensure their credentials hold value for both students and employers, Sussex Downs collaborated with local employers and Digitalme to design an ‘Employability Passport’ of open badges.

SDC Employability Passport Chart

This process began with a survey of 500 local employers asking them to rank the importance of various skills related to employment. The survey included questions about the attitudes and aptitudes employers felt were important for entry-level positions. These initial sessions were followed by more detailed workshops, which helped tease out a more nuanced picture of the attitudes and skills local employers valued, and crucially how they thought they should be evidenced.

This criteria is built in to the badge metadata, which travels with the badge wherever it is displayed online, enabling employers to see the evidence that has been compiled for the skills they need.

“Learners equipped with digital badges, are able to show employers tangible evidence of their skills, including those that have been traditionally difficult to demonstrate. The Open Badge Academy, is so user friendly - everyone just gets it.”
Photo of Kevin JONES

Innovation Lead, Sussex Downs College

An accessible way for students to evidence their learning, wherever it happens.

Sussex Downs knew that the right solution needed to to provide easy, instant and secure access for a large number of learners online, and looked at several platforms to issue badges as well as at potentially building their own.

Due to the mobile friendliness of the platform, Sussex Downs decided to build their badge framework with the Open Badge Academy. Learners can upload evidence directly from their mobile phones, in picture, video and text format - to bring to life the detail of their learning, wherever it happens.

In order to create the best experience for the learners, Sussex Downs use an academy network, to structure and group the different types of badges available to students in alignment with the departments in the college.

Evidence submitted through The Open Badge Academy, is then evaluated online by tutors who are trained to review this evidence in line with criteria set by the college. Tutors are able to leave comments on this evidence, to let the student know if their submission doesn’t quite meet this criteria.

Learners who achieve their credential have a secure way to share a detailed view of their skills with potential employers. There has been significant interest from employers, especially locally who are keen to have more visibility of the skills that align with businesses core values in candidates.

“We have businesses coming to us saying reliability, teamwork and passion are completely critical to our business, if you can send us any students who have earned those badges, we’ll give them immediate work experience opportunities.”
Photo of Kevin JONES

Innovation Lead, Sussex Downs College

Due to the in-built value, there has been huge uptake of the badges with students. Some of whom have participated produced their own video to introduce the badges to their peers.

The future.

By harnessing the power of credentials, Sussex Downs College have been able to begin to tackle a complex challenge facing students, educators and employers.

So what’s next?

Since launching their credentials, the college has expanded the use of Open Badges frameworks to recognise vocational skills in the areas of, Vehicle Maintenance, Childcare, Hair and Beauty, Complementary Therapy and Floristry. Covering a set of skills common to the whole sector such as Customer Care, Consultation and Commercial Awareness.

It’s clear that Sussex Downs are dedicated to seeing every skill, by recognising the voluntary work of their students with an Altruism Framework of badges.

But it hasn’t stopped with the students, Digital credentials are also being developed to recognise the existing professional development programme in place for staff at the college. To find out more visit

The way in which skills are recognised is changing forever and Colleges like Sussex Downs are leading the way by using badges to bridge the gap between education and employment, enabling students to bring their CV to life and ensuring local employers can see every skill.

Logo for Sussex Downs College

​Sussex Downs College is the largest further education college in East Sussex, providing education and training from foundation to degree level.

Their vision is to be a forward-thinking College; valued by the learners, parents and employers that they serve for promoting high expectations and for contributing to social, cultural and economic prosperity.

The Sussex Downs employability passport of credentials are designed with employers to bridge the gap between education and employment, by helping students see the skills they need to succeed in the world of work.

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