Alternative Credentials     projects

USM / Greater Washington Partnership Capital CoLAB Project

In collaboration with the Greater Washington Partnership, the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation partnered with seven USM institutions in a systemwide project aimed at addressing the region’s digital technology workforce needs.


The Greater Washington Partnership (GWP) is a first-of-its-kind civic alliance committed to making the Capital Region one of the world’s best places to live, work, and build a business. The GWP seeks to increase access to well-paying technology-related jobs, diversify technology-related companies, retain talent, and elevate the region as an innovation hub. The GWP’s Capital CoLAB initiative1 is working with university partners between Richmond, VA and Baltimore, MD to create robust opportunities for individuals to acquire in-demand digital skills credentials, to diversify the digital workforce through intentional talent identification and development of students from both STEM and non-STEM programs, and to scale educational opportunities to meet the region’s significant need for technology workers.

As the only system-level partner in the Capital CoLAB initiative, USM was selected because of our institutions’ rich program offerings in these high-demand areas as well as our outstanding and diverse student talent pool. The GWP recognizes this advantage and sees great value in the USM institutions working closely together to leverage our collective expertise and resources, share best practices, increase effectiveness and efficiency, and help advance GWP’s mission to improve the quality of life in the Capital region. The GWP is an enthusiastic supporter of this systemwide initiative, coordinated by the Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, to address the development of digital skills credentials.

Digital Generalist and Digital Specialist Credentials

There are two types of credentials being organized through the GWP. The Digital Generalist credential is geared towards non-STEM majors to prepare students for job roles that require an understanding of data analysis and visualization as well as data security. The Generalist is geared toward undergraduate students pursuing degrees in non-technical fields such as HR, logistics, and finance. It incorporates knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by industry for entry-level positions in a wide variety of occupations.

The set of four Digital Specialist credentials are intended to prepare students for jobs involving specialized technical skills in Cybersecurity, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, and Data Analytics. These credentials are geared toward undergraduate students pursuing 4-year degrees in STEM majors such as computer science, statistics, and engineering. The Specialist credentials include baseline knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by industry for entry-level technical careers.

See for more information on the specific credentials.  

Scaling Training and Talent Identification to Meet Regional Digital Technology Needs

Several of the inaugural CoLAB partner institutions have begun aligning their curricula to the GWP credentials –including UMBC, who has started work on the Digital Generalist and is a lead partner in the USM effort. As the next “wave” of institutions offering Capital CoLAB credentials, USM promises to greatly expand and speed up the work to develop these credentials, particularly with respect to the Digital Specialist credentials. To that end, the Kirwan Center is coordinating a system-wide effort and supporting participating institutions with:

  • mapping existing curricula to the GWP’s industry-identified knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) associated with one or more digital credentials;
  • curating and developing a library of shared online instructional modules to fill curricular gaps;
  • developing processes for consistently and rigorously assessing students’ acquisition of these skills; and
  • ensuring that graduates’ knowledge, skills, and abilities in these areas are made transparent to employers through GWP-endorsed digital badges.

The development process will be unique to each institution based on their existing programs. Matriculated students who demonstrate mastery of the CoLAB KSAs will be issued a GWP-endorsed digital badge from their institution to accompany their regular university degree and transcript. These digital badges will carry with them a snapshot of the evidence used to assess students’ proficiency for employers to view. Students with Digital Generalist and Digital Specialists credentials will be sought out for recruitment by CoLAB companies and provided access to exclusive professional development opportunities, including mentoring/coaching, job shadowing, networking with senior executives, resume reviews, priority interviews for internships and jobs, and financial incentives for new hires.