The National Wood Flooring Association uses digital badges to recognize learning. Whether from online NWFA courses or certifications following hands-on training and assessment, members earn education credits that feed into benefits whether consumers search for certified members. Education and Member Engagement Director, Stephanie Owen talks us through their program and the benefits for the Association. Listen to the full interview here:
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Susan Manning: Welcome to the Credly podcast where we touch base with our issuers, earners and partners, and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning.
Susan Manning: I'm speaking with Stephanie Elwin, education and member engagement director for the National Wood Flooring Association. Welcome Stephanie.
Stephanie Elwin: Thank you.
Susan Manning: A while back you came to us with a problem to solve related to your membership and the association. Can you talk to us a little bit about that and what led you to digital credentials?
Stephanie Elwin: Sure. So I began with NWFA about three and a half years ago and the first project at hand when I started here was to develop an online university. We have a lot of live hands on training and we wanted to deliver that education in a new medium. Part of that purpose learning through developing the online university, it was also learning that we had this "labor crisis" happening within the trades. And it was directly affecting our members, especially our contractors that were struggling to find new labor. And they still are trying to find new workers and people to give them value labor times.
Stephanie Elwin: So when we thought the online university, we thought, okay, this is a new medium. We can reach younger people. But what else could we do? And that's when we started researching digital credentials and reaching out to Credly and learning more about how we could use that as a part of the online university and kind of putting it all together in a bigger structure.
Susan Manning: So how's it work? Walk me through how I might earn something.
Stephanie Elwin: Sure. What we did was we restructured all of our education. So we currently have four certification designation. You can be a certified installer, you can be a certified [salmon 00:01:56] finisher, a certified sales advisor and a certified inspector. And all of those have, well three out of those four designation have a hands on component to it. So we know that we will never be able to take that part away.
Stephanie Elwin: But what we did was we built the classroom work essentially that was happening at our hands on schools within the online university. So one could go through a number of different modules and we grouped them into a learning path and that was a specific learning path that happened to be one topic. So we're talking about evaluating the job site and they could go through those four courses, about 20 minutes a piece and there's an assessment attached to each of those. And when they're done with that, then they can earn a digital credential. And that micro credential was a part of a path of a number of them that they can earn through the university. They could also learning hands on schools that lead to a certification. So there was a path to go through courses online, gives you a credential and it led to credential that eventually lead to certification.
Susan Manning: I think we can check the box on the education part. Now let's go to the member engagement. What's been the result?
Stephanie Elwin: It's been good. In terms of engagement with our online university, just people going through our courses and such we've had over 30,000 in our two years of existence of courses completed so that that's a large number. That averages out to be about 50 courses being completed per day, which is a high volume for our members. We also are have issued about, I would say about 10,000 badges. So that means that they've gone through the education, they're actually doing them within the path and they're earning that.
Stephanie Elwin: When we did this, we also grandfathered our existing certified professionals so that they had some credentials that are represented what they've already completed. So that we had, between those two, what people are earning now and what people did earn, we've issued about 10,000 badges. So the engagement's high and people are really enjoying them. They're sharing them on their social media sites and LinkedIn profiles, on their website. They're embedding those. So it's been way more successful than we ever intended it to be in the first two years.
Susan Manning: What about the younger workforce? Any observations? Is it attracting them or is it making a difference in their membership in your association?
Stephanie Elwin: Oh yeah. For our younger existing members yes. I mean they are tech savvy. They they use Facebook and Instagram and other social media sites to market themselves more than anything else. That is their primary focus. So the ones that are using it are typically our younger people. We're having a harder time of of our established business owners that may be in their 40s, 50s that have had their business for a long time. They have a harder time adopting , this concept than the younger ones. It's obvious that they see the value in it and they're using it to their advantage. Now getting it into the high school space, that's our next step.
Susan Manning: Oh, it's good to have a goal. When you mentioned the older members, we enjoyed many conversations actually around the idea that when an employee earns a badge and then they leave your employment, is that a good thing? A bad thing? It actually prompted a blog post, but I loved having some of your members come up and say I'm proud of providing this opportunity to my employees to upskill and hopefully it retains them in my employment. But if they go, they go with my blessing.
Stephanie Elwin: Right.
Susan Manning: That was a neat conversation. A little controversy. I mean, not everybody agreed with that perspective,
Stephanie Elwin: Always. Always. There's still that misperception that they're educating their potential competition. So they're giving them leverage that they may open their own business and use the credentials that maybe Joe paid for. So there's still that fear, but our message there is their representation while they're on your job site of you, they wear your company logo, they wear your branding so they're an extension of you. So education is important and you can use that and leverage that in your own case. If you have educated your employees and they have credentials to be tied to them, you're going to get more business and retention and turn to that keys. It's a constant kind of argument. There are, I don't want to call it an argument but again, controversy if you will. But educating them properly, they tend to come around.
Susan Manning: As an association, if you had advice to give any other professional association around this space of digital credentials, what would it be?
Stephanie Elwin: For us, I would say we learned that the marketing and the efforts you put in before you launch are extremely beneficial. We thought we did a good job but we learned we could have done far better. Again, we have a large number of individuals that are already certified, so getting the value to something that is new, they've already carried their certification and a little pen that they put on their shirt or a card that they have in their wallet. So changing their mindset in terms of something that's tangible that they can touch to something that's digital and sharing that story and the value of what that can do for their business has been key for us.
Stephanie Elwin: And we feel like we've done a good job of that over the past year and a half. But I think we could've done a better job of that on the front end before we even launched in full force.
Susan Manning: I don't think you're alone in that thought, but it's still an emerging field, so we all have work to do in that area. But the more conversations that we have like this, the more we help others achieve success and then that's going to reflect back on us. So thank you for taking the time to talk through this.
Stephanie Elwin: Absolutely. Thank you.
Susan Manning: Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.