Imagine a world…

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Where a bus driver with tech skills is empowered to jumpstart a new life, becoming a software engineer – eventually running a team of other software engineers at a high-growth tech start-up.

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Where a mother living paycheck-to-paycheck takes the customer service skills she honed as a retail worker and is able to access sales training to get on a pathway to a career as a sales director.

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Where an army veteran who developed a knack for computers while serving their country earns an IT certificate and lands a job at an IT consulting firm.

In that world, employers value the potential of people who may not hold four-year college degrees, but possess proven skills companies desperately need. In that world, people get a fair shot at a fulfilling job, a rewarding career, and a better life for themselves and their families.

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We want to create that world in partnership with employers, training providers, and advocates. We envision a future where people are celebrated for the skills and potential they have, rather than being defined by the four-year college degree they lack. We call these people STARs – Skilled Through Alternative Routes – and we believe they are one of the greatest untapped resources in our country.

Millions of STARs have skills and great potential to excel at in-demand jobs – but they never get the chance to show what they can do. STARs reflect our country’s racial and regional diversity, promise, and drive. They represent a massive pool of talent – but also the invisible casualties of America’s broken labor market where employers use a college pedigree as a way to narrow down their applicant pool overlooking STARs in the process.

More about STARs:

  • STARs are a subset of the approximately 80 million individuals in the U.S. labor market who graduated from high school but do not have a four-year college degree.1 We estimate there may be as many as 30-40 million workers who have skills gained through alternative routes and the ability to fill today’s pressing job gaps.

  • When employers require a four-year college degree, they screen out 76% of African Americans, 83% of Latinos and 81% of rural Americans.

  • Almost two-thirds of America’s veterans do not hold four-year degrees but have gained valuable technical and soft skills during their service.

  • Thousands of job seekers have completed technical training through workforce programs like TechHire, online credentialing services, or certification programs like and IT Support Certificate – acquiring valuable skills without a college degree.

Our mission at Opportunity@Work is to rewire the labor market to connect the millions of STARs locked out of good jobs with employers that urgently need skilled talent.


[1] Source: Opportunity@Work analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Surveys 2018 and July 2019, Measure of America, and Wikipedia.