Media FAQs

Who are STARs?

STARs are workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes. STARs are aged 25 or older, active in the labor force, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and have developed their skills through alternative routes such as community college, apprenticeships, bootcamps, and most commonly, on-the-job.

What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

STARs have the skills for higher-wage work but are systematically shut out by the paper ceiling. With degree discrimination on the rise, the wage gap between STARs and workers with bachelor’s degrees has doubled over the last 40 years. STARs now earn less – when adjusted for inflation – than they did in 1976, and it takes more than 30 years on the job for STARs to earn the same wage that college graduates earn on day one of their career. This hurts the STARs who can’t translate their learning into earning, but also the employers in need of skilled talent.

What is the paper ceiling?

The paper ceiling is the invisible barrier that comes at every turn for workers without a bachelor’s degree. The lack of alumni networks, biased algorithms, degree screens, stereotypes and misperceptions contribute to the paper ceiling, creating barriers to upward economic mobility for STARs—even though they have demonstrated skills for higher-wage work.

What is “Tear the Paper Ceiling?”

The multiyear national public service advertising (PSA) campaign, developed in partnership with the Ad Council, aims to expand upward mobility for the more than 70 million workers in the U.S. who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs). 

Recognizing that we cannot solve the inequities of economic mobility without addressing both the worker and employer sides of the labor market, we’re calling on both to work to Tear the Paper Ceiling together. 

Tear the Paper Ceiling is a field-wide effort, supported by a broad collective of leading companies and workforce organizations. Nearly 50 partners have joined the coalition, including Accenture, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, and Walmart. 

We’re aiming to continue to grow this coalition with members across the business, nonprofit, policy and academic fields to support and amplify the campaign throughout the multiyear effort.

How does tearing the paper ceiling help employers?

Skills-based hiring, sometimes called “skills-first” hiring, can help employers increase the size of their talent pools and find more qualified applicants for hard-to-fill roles.

Employers in need of skilled and diverse talent can tap the talents of the 50% of workers in the U.S. today who are STARs by removing barriers such as bachelor’s degree screens and adopting skills-based hiring practices.

By tearing the paper ceiling, companies can tap a massive pool of quality candidates for hard-to-fill roles in growing fields like healthcare, information technology, customer service and more.

How does tearing the paper ceiling help STARs?

Currently, the paper ceiling has created unfair barriers to economic mobility for STARs, even though they have demonstrated skills for higher-wage work.

By adopting skills-based hiring practices, we open the door to more jobs where STARs can pursue pathways to higher earning and let their skills shine.

Additionally, creating more equitable opportunities for STARs creates more paths to success for the 61% of Black workers, 55% of Hispanic workers, and 66% of rural workers of all races are STARs.

How can I help Tear the Paper Ceiling?

There are deliberate choices managers, companies, industries, and regions can make to Tear the Paper Ceiling. 

By moving to skills-based hiring and valuing skills developed through any route, employers can begin to build more flourishing, resilient, and equitable talent pipelines.

  • If you’re just starting out, begin by identifying the roles in your organization that are well-suited to skills-based hiring and intentional STAR sourcing and retool your hiring processes for skills-based hiring.
  • If you’re ready to recruit STARs, rethink your talent sourcing routes, including internal talent pathways.
  • If you’re ready for STARs to thrive at scale, ensure that your onramps and onboarding are effective for a more diverse talent pool and continue to broaden and strengthen your future talent pipelines. 


At, the campaign provides resources for employers to expand their own STARs hiring, and invites STARs to share their own stories. 

  • Employers can access a suite of tools that includes the “Case for STARs” to help you  get started with skills-based hiring practices in their organization.

Is your work and/or organization anti-college?

Absolutely not! College cannot be the only path to success, but in America today, a bachelor’s degree represents the most direct route to securing middle- and high-wage work. And unfortunately, employers have turned college from a bridge to opportunity to a drawbridge that gets pulled up if someone hasn’t gotten through. College is a clear pathway to upward mobility and it should be; however, it shouldn’t be the only pathway to this opportunity. 

Are there subject matter experts I should reach out to for specific questions?

Yes! Please take a look at our Experts Page to see who is best-suited to answer your questions.

Who are some partners that you work with or are funded by?

To see a full list of our funders, partners and supporters, please click here.