Embracing Digital Credentials

I think the IET should be leading the pack and issuing digital credentials for membership levels. Although the support for City & Guilds is a start as well as the link via the IET academy, they should set the example for the PEI's and influence EngC in issuing credentials for professional registrations. APM are an organisation setting the standards here.

Views and Thoughts appreciated especially from the IET to support progressive recognition in this digital age.

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  • I think before rushing off, I'd like to ask the no.1 noddy question,  - what is the problem to which, if I understand it correctly, the electronic equivalent of an exam certificate or driving licence or whatever, held on a cloud server somewhere in the USA is the solution ?

    I have a drawer of paper certs (that no-one ever asks to see, pretty much ever, incidentally * ) going back about 40 years, and no one is suggesting those need to be digitised, or are they?

    How at the moment are 'proof of status' data exchanged, how would fraud, either injection of false data or loss of data and so forth be avoided  and shown to be  ?

    I would agree the bar is low, very few exam certificates are apostillised or any thing like.

    I'm not against the idea, but nor am I 'for' it - I'd like to know what it would achieve before deciding a position...

    Mike

    * there is the additional complication that in the UK we do not really share the 'papers please' culture of some other western countries,  and tend to trust CVs and so on, not always wisely.

  •    Mike - Some great points. 

    what is the problem to which, if I understand it correctly, the electronic equivalent of an exam certificate or driving licence or whatever, held on a cloud server somewhere in the USA is the solution ?

     - My view -

    With social media becoming more and more important as well it's very easy for a person to state they have something or even state post nominals in our case but unless they can evidence this independently where's the verification. I take E5 here as well in that if a person is falsely claiming they say they are registered etc. and then another registered engineer identifies this then they are bound under E5 to report that fact. But in reality is that ever going to happen, or is it even possible to check? Well it is under EngC but again who's got the time... With digital credentials this is easy and verifiable. Furthermore although most badges as you rightly say are probably hosted in the cloud on an American server "Credly" is moving it to the blockchain which as I'm sure your aware is the ultimate in verification.

    One other thing that is also a concern that I and others are at risk of, is fraudulently using our details because in say LinkedIn under licences and certifications to prove on has this to support post nominals in their title they need to put their membership number down or if prof reg'd their EngC reference. 

    These can then be copied, this is a big issue with ECS cards. but with digital credentials this is no longer required improving confidentiality. 

    I have a drawer of paper certs (that no-one ever asks to see, pretty much ever, incidentally * ) going back about 40 years, and no one is suggesting those need to be digitised, or are they?

    - My view -

    Digital credentials can only be applied to qualifications and licences deemed current by their awarding bodies or are available to be issued as agreed by their associated awarding bodies. So Mike from your profile, I think you have an electronics background so say one of those certs from back in the day i.e. 236 Parts 1 and 2 in your drawer, if you have this qual, if not their entry level electronics certs from C&G, so because of age would not attract a digital credential because this qual is not  current and C&G's policy would not authorise a badge for it ,so it stays as paper. If you know someone's child who's going onto Engineering T-level's this year they will attract a digital badge in 2024 as C&G now as standard issue them to support paper / e-certs.

    How at the moment are 'proof of status' data exchanged, how would fraud, either injection of false data or loss of data and so forth be avoided  and shown to be

    - My view -

    Although I don't have an ISO cert to hand Credly, the platform managing digital badges would be ISO27001 certified, OK this isn't fool proof take Solarwinds hack but its as good as it can be, in a similar vain as you can buy a pretty good copy of say a CMI cert online and you could pass that off as your own to a potential employer demonstrating management competence. As we no nothings fool proof but Credly is recognised for their high standards. It's also important to note that Credly are instructed by the awarding body, so in our case the IET would control the accuracy of information to them and I'm sure as part of their QA they would be audited by the IET and other customer's routinely as well as ISO audits.

    I would agree the bar is low, very few exam certificates are apostillised or any thing like.

    - My view -

    Yep this is digital apostillisation for sure, but the badge is separate to the original certificate, confirmation is done by the platform and then if there was any doubt an independent check with the awarding body would be needed. For example you can do RegCheck on EngC, so this would be the same but the badge would need to be checked by direct contact with the awarding body. I'm not aware of any hacks on this system as yet and once Blockchain takes over.. happy days on that front.

    I'm not against the idea, but nor am I 'for' it - I'd like to know what it would achieve before deciding a position

    - My view -

    sustainability, simplicity, level playing field, confidentiality, rigour, visibility, future vision,

    options for candidates - for example I want my digital badge and you may be happy with the cert in a frame on the wall

    * there is the additional complication that in the UK we do not really share the 'papers please' culture of some other western countries,  and tend to trust CVs and so on, not always wisely.

    - My view -

    As above....

    Thanks for the message though Mike, got me thinking hard on this one!

  • Hi Mike, your funny! clearly as you say part of the old school; as well as articulate!

    Assuming it does, it will probably come quite smartly - we only have to look at the take up of the idea of electronic signatures  on contracts, on-line bank transfers and so on, all quite unthinkable, until it has been done, then it quickly takes over as a dominant method.

    I think this is exactly how it will go, again not for everyone, my point about choice and adoption will always prevail but over time it will probably become the de-facto way, like the examples you state in other areas where digitalization has taken hold.

    To be honest and I'm not sure if your aware of these as it was probably after your time, but I have a National Record of Achievement and love all my "tickets" being in there, but I also want a secure online presence on say LinkedIn like so many others.

    But for sure, even in the age of COVID when someone is taken on after a Teams / Zoom interview there must always be probation to ensure the "blaggers" are sifted out no matter how their qualifications are obtained together with their self certified experience...

    Personally I tend however to be looking over the desk at  folk with degree or postgrad levels though, so my expectation may be coloured a bit by that

    I think this will eventually become part of the HE graduation process together with the gown and mortar...  and even more so if PEI's finally pick this up!

  • I suggest that only once there is a real demand among the folk who actually want to see and maybe to verify, qualifications, rather than just those who want to get folk on courses to provide them, or those taking same, who want to wave them about to show they finished the course, change will follow.

    I think that's probably true, but if it turns out to be easy for the IET to implement the egg could potentially come before the chicken - if employers knew that it was straightforward to ask for a "digital" CEng/IEng/EngTech certificate to be included with an application there may be more chance they would ask for it. That said I've never been asked for mine, I do wonder whether anyone ever has been!

  • CEng/IEng/EngTech certificate to be included with an application there may be more chance they would ask for it. That said I've never been asked for mine, I do wonder whether anyone ever has been!

    Hi Andy it would be better than that, they just check themselves on demand or get their ATS ( the system used for sifting through applications digitally) to cross check ensuring that their candidates have the necessary qualifications and this is verified independently.

    I see lots of jobs stating professionally registered so this would be simple to evidence that fact, if they are working towards then having a member digital credential is partial evidence of that. Clearly demonstrating how far a candidate is on working towards is beyond the scope of this system and would be left to the interview.

  • they just check themselves on demand

    Hi Lee, be a bit careful here: assuming by "they" you mean the employers, I'm not sure the letter or the spirit of GDPR would allow this? It's reasonable for an employer to request evidence, and for them to refuse to take on an employee who refuses to supply it (provided it is evidence that is clearly and reasonably related to the job), but as employers we have to be very careful about delving ourselves into potential employees personal information.

    What I can see this will help with is the very outdated scanning and sending to HR of certificates, which is really only paying lip service to an assurance process - it always amuses me when I do this as my degree certificate is a) in Latin, b) does not say what my degree is actually in and c) doesn't actually say what degree grade I got! (And being rather old and hence black and white would be very easy to forge anyway.) Actually last time I did it I did contact my old university to ask if they had a better record in case I did get asked, but discovered they didn't have it either...

    However, it's making the effort proportional to the problem you are trying to solve. As others have mentioned here, actually when recruiting we (i.e. employers generally) very rarely worry too much about the candidate's academic or professional registration credentials. Shock horror. Now, that said, if we found out they had lied about their credentials that we would worry about. What is far more interesting, because it actually presents the much greater risk, is the evidence of their career history - it is, sadly, not uncommon to find when they are in the job that an applicant has "polished the truth" about their past work experience, whereas I can't ever remember a candidate having been found at a later date to have lied about their qualifications etc (I know it does happen, just not something I've personally come across). But maybe I've always worked with particularly honest candidates, other views would be interesting.

    So yes, this will make life easier for the applicant, and it will provide better assurance for employers, so it seems sensible to implement provided a) it's not too much of an additional burden (given that the problem it's trying to solve may not, in practice, be a huge problem) and b) the technology is robust. And c) bear in mind future proofing, the records must not be tied so much to one system that they are lost when that system is obsoleted, the records must be as accessible in 40 years time as they are today.

    And Nobel Prize to anyone who can find a way of attaching useful digital credentials to candidate's work experience! Which would also help the professional registration process hugely.

    Cheers,

    Andy

  • Hi Lee, be a bit careful here: assuming by "they" you mean the employers, I'm not sure the letter or the spirit of GDPR would allow this? It's reasonable for an employer to request evidence, and for them to refuse to take on an employee who refuses to supply it (provided it is evidence that is clearly and reasonably related to the job), but as employers we have to be very careful about delving ourselves into potential employees personal information.

    Hi Andy, I have not explained the process well as this is driven by the consent of the candidate or data subject and can be withdrawn at any time

    So the process is - 

    Awarding body or institute i.e. the IET offers digital credentials or badge

    Candidate or data subject achieves a status that attracts a digital badge with the Awarding body or institute . In fact the IET Academy with cross knowledge already do this..

    Candidate setup's up an account on a digital credential platform to receive digital badge

    Candidate accepts and receives the digital badge into the platform whose access is controlled by them including visibility of existing badges

    Candidates consents to the sharing of the digital credential via the platform to defined social media platforms generally LinkedIn

    The digital badge which is not a scan of a qualification parchment or certificate but a representation of the award can be shared via a post on the social media site. The badge only specifies the award and provides a reference to the person. There is no reference to certificate numbers, or locations of where the award occured.

    Furthermore the candidate can link a certification entry to a public representation of the digital badge on the digital credential platform.

    Because of the consent inferred by the data subject linking this badge to a publicly accessible site then the third party can on demand click the link associated with the public representation of the digital badge to confirm qualification status 

    At any time the candidate or data subject has the right to be forgotten either by deleting the link on the social media site or deleting the badge on the digital credential site.

    So there is full consent at all points with the ability to be forgotten at any point. For the purposes of pre-employment checking the candidate needs to ensure all aspects are in place for the prospective employer to confirm qualification status this way, otherwise it's back to the old fashioned way i.e. bringing the original with you to a F2F interview if those will ever occur again...

    So yes, this will make life easier for the applicant, and it will provide better assurance for employers, so it seems sensible to implement provided a) it's not too much of an additional burden (given that the problem it's trying to solve may not, in practice, be a huge problem) and b) the technology is robust. And c) bear in mind future proofing, the records must not be tied so much to one system that they are lost when that system is obsoleted, the records must be as accessible in 40 years time as they are today.

    So as the system and process is proven in use and utilised the world over "accept it came form the US" the use of it is simply a cost to the institution but knowing City & Guilds have basically integrated this into their entire qualification awarding process this should be really easy for the likes of the IET to follow see this link  

    And Nobel Prize to anyone who can find a way of attaching useful digital credentials to candidate's work experience! Which would also help the professional registration process hugely.

    Now this may or may not be your answer but see this link  and see the associated badge for Level 7 link .

    These are all VQ's (Vocational Qualifications) and are completely assessed by SQEP on your experience based on the old senior awards but revamped to include vocational assessment as opposed to obtaining them because a personal has achieved professional registration.

    I actually think PRA's are very worthwhile and Roy Bowdler knows about these from his past, he may even have one or two.

    BTW great challenges as always Andy, you are a legend on this forum so I'm quite humbled your involved in this debate!

  • Hi Lee, Flattery will get you everywhere  Joy

    On the PRAs (and really off topic for this thread so happy to pick it up elsewhere if anyone's interested :) ), the problem is that, like CEng etc, they still don't show that the applicant has done the specific work they claim, e.g. - to take a case I came across which was particularly blatant - an engineer I interviewed once who was clearly a competent, say level 7 or CEng, engineer in general but who specifically claimed EMC test management experience (which we'd asked for in the job spec) which he didn't actually have. Now in that case I worked it out straight away at interview - which was quite a short interview after that - but there are subtler examples which are harder to catch. And it's particularly difficult where you're trying to recruit a single specialist engineer to a team where, by definition, the recruiting team don't have that specialist experience (otherwise you wouldn't be recruiting it) - as I know myself having had to recruit software and, even worse, mechanical engineers in the past. (In fact I suspect the candidate above may have hoped that no-one on the interviewing panel had EMC experience, and in fact he did just get unlucky with me.) So digital credentials which captured technical and management expertise in particular fields on particular projects would be a wonderful boon, and save ages playing the games we do in interviews trying to find out whether an "engineering project manager" actually knew anything whatsoever about the engineering they were allegedly managing! Anyone who's done interviewing at a senior level will know exactly what I mean by that... 

    On the flip side however, too many easily checked (or even worse, auto checked and filtered) credentials could lead us down the path where it's impossible to get a job without having the precise credentials, which are impossible to get because you can't the work experience because you haven't got the right credentials etc etc etc...I bless those various recruiting mangers at key points in my career who took me on at risk despite me being underqualified or underexperienced for the role. In fact, most job moves I've made have been to roles which I wasn't strictly qualified or experienced for! So I do also feel let's be careful what we wish for, back to the thread we probably need to be confident that digital credentials are used for endorsing decisions rather than making them (which is probably impossible to enforce); just as personally I think it's too easy for HR departments to throw out any candidates with degrees below a first etc already, I'd be wary of giving them anything else similar to use. But I'm aware many disagree with me on this one.

    At the very least this discussion has FINALLY made me get in touch with the University registry who hold the records of my first degree (the University college itself no longer exists), who immediately got back and said yes they could send me a new certificate which would have my full degree details in English (and Welsh). So a mere 40 years later I'll finally be able to prove what my degree is...not that anyone has been interested except the IEE when I was applying for my CEng.

    Cheers,

    Andy 

  • HI Andy, For me digital credentials is one of the ways a person can demonstrate qualification in a nice and succinct way. I'll be honest I was only aware of the ATS process (machine's sifting through CV's / covering letters) because I'm doing a CMI course. I have been very lucky to stay in the same organisation for over 25 years so have never gone through this process or very few interviews.

    I don't think that digital credentials on their own should be solely used for decision making but they might be in future and that is for particular recruitment processes to sort out, to ensure they are fair, inclusive and can attract the talent they need appropriately.

    For me and others this is just a really simple way of showing and referencing my qualification or membership using a badge designed by the institute or awarding body on platforms like LinkedIn without scanning my cert and posting it or putting my cert number in an licence entry which could be copied in either instance.

    I'm not sure if you have seen the Credly platform it is big and has a lot of firms/awarding bodies/institutes active on it. Yes it is driven by IT but it is diversifying as I have mentioned, see this link

    The badges are more for short courses, qualifications or membership from what I have seen, I'm not even sure there are US universities who issue digital credentials for their degrees and I don't know of any in the UK so that might never happen, but all in all it is a sign of the times, they are being used more and more and I think the IET being as forward thinking and acting as they want to be, should really be at least offering it to people who want those digi badges as part of a wider choice of recognition.

    Furthermore I think once people experience them and the way they can be showcased, they will really see the benefit like I have and use them in an appropriate and come to think of it proud way.

    So now I'm eager to see how "IET strategy" consider this as part of a bottom up initiative.

    All the best and great debate!

  • Hi Lee,

    I've just had a quick look at the Credly platform, I don't think it's something I would personally use in recruitment. BUT, and I think this is crucial, I've always recruited at professional level, I can see that recruiting at skilled level (which I've been involved with in the past but never directly responsible for) it could well be useful. So similarly you may find recruiters have more interest in the IET having digital credentials for EngTech than IEng/CEng, and, conversely, having digital credentials for EngTech may increase its visibility and acceptance. Which would be good. 

    Also, as well as recruitment think about companies demonstrating staff competence (apologies if that has been covered already, this new forum layout makes it really really hard to follow the thread of a discussion!), when I'm auditing companies for staff competence, if digital credentials can be nicely "packeted" up for the staff on a project it could be a good way of showing third party evidence of competence? But you may find that companies say it is too complicated to run this in addition to their existing competence management systems, it'll need a bit of market research.

    Thanks,

    Andy

  • Hi Andy,

    APM are using digital credentials for professional levels like ChPP and CMI are "looking" into digital credentials for all membership levels up to FCMI & CMgr so it can be used for professional levels but most badges as you say are at the skilled level.

    having digital credentials for EngTech may increase its visibility and acceptance. Which would be good

    I think if they create one for EngTech and by they I mean EngC because it needs to be them really, then I think IEng and CEng will follow but starting here first would be a "great and inclusive" start, whereas for the IET it is more for membership grades or if they embark on Professional Qualifications similar to IChemE with their Professional Process Safety Engineer qualification.

    if digital credentials can be nicely "packeted" up for the staff on a project it could be a good way of showing third party evidence of competence?

    For sure this could be used in a competency grouping or packeting exercise and the likes of Credly will offer API's as well as the Blockchain now so it wouldn't be difficult to pull this info into a CMS, the issue would be the available qualifications that attract digital credentials but the more that do it, like the IET, the more chance such a closed loop system has.

    All the Best,

    Lee    

  • Hi Lee,

    I think you might be slightly missing the point that a couple of us have raised, back to your statement:

    "For me and others this is just a really simple way of showing and referencing my qualification or membership"

    Fine if you want to, but for recruiting at professional level don't be surprised if recruiters and, more importantly, recruiting managers, really aren't interested! We actually really are not greatly interested in your qualifications and membership, what we want to know is what work you've done recently and how you've gone about it (and there's no "right" answer to this, as a good company will be looking for a mixture of backgrounds and approaches). You would not believe how little time the typical recruiting manager spends reading the qualification and membership section of a CV for a graduate or experienced engineer...for someone with, say, over 10 years experience, it could be as little as none at all!

    It's actually a really interesting issue, as it's a very fundamental difference between recruiting skilled and professional staff. For skilled staff you absolutely do need to know what training and qualifications (including work based) they have, to know they really have the skills they say they have. Hence I think this is an excellent idea there. For professional staff what you want to know is whether they can solve the next completely random problem you're going to throw at them (without landing the business in the bankruptcy or criminal courts), and the fun of recruiting professional staff is there's actually no formal qualification that demonstrates that! It's all about track record. Ok, CEng/IEng and CMgr hint at it, but actually they're all based on track record anyway - which is a major problem with their usefulness in recruiting, the recruiter has the same information as the PMI or CMI in front of them anyway, so is likely to make their own assessment.

    So just be a bit careful, of course ChPP and CMI will be looking at it as it is their business to sell certifications (just as it is the IET's and all the other PMIs) - but there's the fundamental rule of selling that you don't want to expend time and effort trying to sell people things they don't want to buy - or even worse which they will later regret buying. Hence my advice that before getting too excited about looking at digital credentials for IEng/CEng that you check that recruiters are actually interested in using them. Otherwise there's a risk of offering something to IET members which then turns out to have no real value to those members, which wouldn't make the IET very popular.

    Or in other words, that fundamental engineering advice (which I have to admit took me most of my career to learn Relaxed *): just make sure you're looking for the problem that needs solving FIRST, and then working out how you can use technology to solve the problem! Otherwise it can be hugely frustrating when you find that nobody wants your solution because there wasn't actually a problem... (Been there, done that, got the T shirt.)

    Cheers,

    Andy

    * And I still sometimes forget at home when I find a bit of random engineering junk lying around (I have lots) and find myself thinking "I could make a xxx out of that!" and have to remind myself to check that I actually need an xxx Grinning

Reply
  • Hi Lee,

    I think you might be slightly missing the point that a couple of us have raised, back to your statement:

    "For me and others this is just a really simple way of showing and referencing my qualification or membership"

    Fine if you want to, but for recruiting at professional level don't be surprised if recruiters and, more importantly, recruiting managers, really aren't interested! We actually really are not greatly interested in your qualifications and membership, what we want to know is what work you've done recently and how you've gone about it (and there's no "right" answer to this, as a good company will be looking for a mixture of backgrounds and approaches). You would not believe how little time the typical recruiting manager spends reading the qualification and membership section of a CV for a graduate or experienced engineer...for someone with, say, over 10 years experience, it could be as little as none at all!

    It's actually a really interesting issue, as it's a very fundamental difference between recruiting skilled and professional staff. For skilled staff you absolutely do need to know what training and qualifications (including work based) they have, to know they really have the skills they say they have. Hence I think this is an excellent idea there. For professional staff what you want to know is whether they can solve the next completely random problem you're going to throw at them (without landing the business in the bankruptcy or criminal courts), and the fun of recruiting professional staff is there's actually no formal qualification that demonstrates that! It's all about track record. Ok, CEng/IEng and CMgr hint at it, but actually they're all based on track record anyway - which is a major problem with their usefulness in recruiting, the recruiter has the same information as the PMI or CMI in front of them anyway, so is likely to make their own assessment.

    So just be a bit careful, of course ChPP and CMI will be looking at it as it is their business to sell certifications (just as it is the IET's and all the other PMIs) - but there's the fundamental rule of selling that you don't want to expend time and effort trying to sell people things they don't want to buy - or even worse which they will later regret buying. Hence my advice that before getting too excited about looking at digital credentials for IEng/CEng that you check that recruiters are actually interested in using them. Otherwise there's a risk of offering something to IET members which then turns out to have no real value to those members, which wouldn't make the IET very popular.

    Or in other words, that fundamental engineering advice (which I have to admit took me most of my career to learn Relaxed *): just make sure you're looking for the problem that needs solving FIRST, and then working out how you can use technology to solve the problem! Otherwise it can be hugely frustrating when you find that nobody wants your solution because there wasn't actually a problem... (Been there, done that, got the T shirt.)

    Cheers,

    Andy

    * And I still sometimes forget at home when I find a bit of random engineering junk lying around (I have lots) and find myself thinking "I could make a xxx out of that!" and have to remind myself to check that I actually need an xxx Grinning

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