In New Mexico, a collaboration between Fab Lab Hub and the Departments of Economic Development, Workforce Solutions, and Education, along with New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership have successfully supported the development of a statewide digital badging program. In 2019, the New Mexico Department of Economic Development provided $20,000 in funding for the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) to create a Lab Safety certification for 3D Printing as well as laser and CNC machining to up-skill LANL employees and train statewide workers for positions at the three national labs located in New Mexico as well as at commercial companies.
Piloted at Fab Lab Hubs’ facility at Santa Fe Community College, Digital Badges were issued through the continuing education department and will be expanded to other colleges, high schools, alternative education programs, fab labs and makerspaces in 2020. These digital badges, which are micro-credentials that adhere to the international OpenBadges standards, allow for individuals to earn a wide variety of certifications for individual skills and competencies ranging from 3D Printing molds for jewelry designers to Fabricating Props For The Film Industry.
The New Mexico badges can be earned in an average of 6 weeks, at an average cost of $250 and empower individuals to acquire new competencies continuously throughout their lives. The individual badges can also be stacked into Master Badges for jobs such as a Master 3D Printing Operator or Master Robotics Repair Technician. A master badge can usually be attained for a few thousand dollars over a period of about 6 months.
The pilot saw increased enrollment in the digital badge program, 30% of people who attained a badge were placed in new jobs, 30% were upskilled in existing jobs, and 20% used the skills to start a new business. The remaining badge-earners took the classes for their own lifelong learning. While this initiative was led primarily at the local level, the State assisted in the convening of stakeholders to promote the program among educators, employers and policy makers, including via a state-wide Summit in Fall 2019.