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Logo for How tech’s outdated reliance on college degrees hinders workplace DEI Article

September 11, 2023

I’m one of more than 70 million STARs, workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes rather than through bachelor’s degrees, who make up half of the U.S. workforce (hardly exceptions to the rule!). STARs are adults who have earned their skills through pathways like community college, training and education programs, military service, partial college completion, and on-the-job experience. We are already succeeding in these roles when given the opportunity—and could do so at scale if employers gave us a fair shot.

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Logo for Gen Z is dropping the college dream. It’s time for America to catch up. Article

September 5, 2023

Options are growing for Gen Z and others to acquire those skills, too. Instead of a bachelor’s degree, job-seekers can complete, for instance, Google’s Career Certificates, online training for skills like UX design and data analytics. Entrepreneur Scott Galloway’s Section 4 runs business strategy “sprints” meant to make a business school education more accessible, and organizations such as Opportunity@Work are connecting applicants “skilled through alternative routes,” such as the military or on-the-job learning, with employers.

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Logo for Occupational Segregation Drives Persistent Inequality, Study Says Article

September 4, 2023

The study grew out of previous research by academics and Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit social venture. That research focused on workers without a college degree but with work experience that could make them candidates for higher-paying jobs — a group called STARs, for those who are “skilled through alternative routes.” The majority of American workers are not college graduates.

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Logo for Tear up the paper ceiling that's holding so many Canadians back Article

August 30, 2023

In the U.S., at least 13 states moved to break their own paper ceilings and open up better jobs to those without degrees. These include both Red and Blue states, making the fight against credential inflation one of the few things both Republican and Democratic leaders can still agree upon.

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Logo for Transforming Postsecondary Education By Exploring Individualized Paths Article

August 28, 2023

A great example of such a collaboration is Opportunity@Work, a national nonprofit helping individuals work, learn, and earn to their full potential. They launched the Tear the Paper Ceiling campaign to spur public and private sector action to remove unnecessary degree requirements. Facilitated in part by the Ad Council and dozens of other national partners, the campaign showcases stories of people and companies “tearing the paper ceiling” to promote opportunity for those Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs).

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Logo for Alabama bets big on a talent marketplace Article

August 10, 2023

Alabama has gone public with what may be the nation’s most ambitious effort to tighten connections between education and work. Experts say the project could have major implications for skills-based hiring and the unbundling of credentials.

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Logo for For Most College Students, Affirmative Action Was Never Enough Article

July 3, 2023

Meanwhile, forward-thinking employers could join the national movement to do away with bachelor’s diplomas as requirements for entry-level jobs, sending a clear signal that skills, not costly and exclusionary pieces of paper, are what matter in the 21st century.

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Logo for To Expand Access To Quality Jobs, We Need A Without Limits Approach Article

June 27, 2023

Last year, the Maryland state government made a big commitment to investing in human potential when, encouraged by Opportunity@Work’s Tear the Paper Ceiling campaign, officials removed college degree requirements from state jobs. The state had been having a hard time filling jobs, and in the first year after the change, hires increased 41%, according to former Governor Larry Hogan. Since then, 11 other states have followed suit. Removing degree requirements has opened up more than 100,000 jobs across these states in the past year.

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Logo for Help Wanted: No Degree Necessary Article

June 19, 2023

Who stands to benefit? The nonprofit Opportunity@Work estimates there are 70 million STARs—workers who have been “skilled through alternative routes.” They include veterans, young computer programmers, and those who have taken time out of the workforce to raise children or care for a loved one at home.

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Logo for The College-Only Mindset Hurts the American Dream. It Needs to Stop Now | Opinion Article

May 10, 2023

“States are taking action to tear up this paper ceiling that excludes so many talented applicants. As the governors of New Jersey and Utah, we have implemented policies to prioritize practical experience and skills training over degree requirements for certain state government jobs.”

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Logo for Research Reveals That Apprenticeships Offer A Bright Future To Participants Article

April 13, 2023

The labor market has been pretty loose since the 2008 financial crisis, with this underpinning a considerable rise in credentialism that has seen employers demanding four-year degrees for even entry-level jobs. This has resulted in the most expensive form of education society currently has on offer being elevated above alternative routes, such as apprenticeships or so-called “STARS”, which are people who are skilled through alternative routes.

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Logo for Skills-First Is More Than A Hiring Strategy, It’s A Mindset Article

March 30, 2023

Once considered a nice way to give people a leg-up, skills-first hiring has now permeated the national conscience. Nationwide movements like Tear the Paper Ceiling have captured media attention, bringing skills-first hiring practices and their benefits to the forefront. But with the global concern for workforce skills gaps, hiring for skills versus pedigree is now a business imperative.

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Logo for YUPRO Placement Invites Employers to Adopt Skills-First Hiring Practices Article

February 28, 2023

“STARs are half of our skilled workforce. If employers don’t have a STARs talent strategy, they only have half a talent strategy,” said Opportunity@Work CEO & Co-Founder Byron Auguste. “Tearing the paper ceiling is about bringing in talent based on skills over degrees and performance over pedigree. This is innovation by inclusion – tapping into all talents and valuing workers’ skills by whatever route they gained them.”

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Logo for Skills-Based Employment Can Help To Find “Invisible Workers” Article

January 26, 2023

With an estimated 70 million people across the United States “skilled through alternative routes”, the untapped market is considerable. What’s more, the upward mobility of these people is far less than that of their peers with degrees.

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Logo for How You Can Tear Down the 'Paper Ceiling' and Uncover New Talent Article

January 23, 2023

STARs are all around us, the more than 70 million workers in the U.S. who are “skilled through alternative routes” (STARs), rather than via college degrees, and they make up 50% of the U.S. workforce.

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Logo for Larry Hogan’s legacy includes a bright idea for the labor force Article

January 18, 2023

For their part, progressive Democrats emphasize the implications for equity; since Black and Latino workers are less likely than others to have college degrees, requiring them creates a “paper ceiling,” the impact of which is racially disparate, according to Byron Auguste, a former economic adviser to the Obama White House and CEO of Opportunity@Work, who collaborated with Hogan on the issue.

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To build a better tech workforce, we can’t address today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions

August 8, 2022

Yet many employers still have not changed their hiring practices to recognize the potential of these other pathways, or to explicitly screen in workers known as STARs (Skilled Through Alternative Routes). Too many businesses are choosing the strategies they know—looking overseas or poaching talent from their competitors—rather than investing the time and energy necessary to build a strong and sustainable tech workforce within the U.S. economy.

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Black and Hispanic Employees Often Get Stuck at the Lowest Rung of the Workplace

July 31, 2022

A recent study by Opportunity@Work suggests workers of color also pay a higher price for not having a college degree. Analyzing nearly 80 million job transitions between 2010 and 2019, it found that Black and Hispanic workers over 25 years old with a high-school diploma or equivalent who made a job transition were half as likely to end up in a high-wage job than their white peers who are over 25 and hold a high-school diploma or equivalent but not a college degree.

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More workers without degrees are landing jobs. Will it last?

July 8, 2022

“It means a lot,” Groom said of Hogan’s announcement. “There are a lot of companies limiting out a lot of talent. You can have a degree and not have the knowledge and skill sets.”

He followed a link to a job site called Stellarworx and applied for two IT positions with the state.

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Maryland Takes a Stand Against the College Credential

March 17, 2022

As an alternative qualification, Maryland will seek out “STARs” (Skilled Through Alternative Routes) — those who are “age 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, military service, boot camps, and most commonly, on-the-job.”

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Hiring based on skills instead of college degrees opens up opportunities for millions

February 17, 2022

But these people — skilled through alternative routes, or STARs, as she calls them — have been increasingly excluded from upwardly mobile jobs. Key roles in fields like computer support, health care and sales used to be filled by a greater share of workers without college degrees. Over the last 20 years, the numbers have shrunk.

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Worker shortage unleashes a forever jobs crisis

January 21, 2022

For companies that develop their own pipelines of talent by being willing to invest in worker training and other creative strategies, “it’s a big source of competitive advantage,” says Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit focused on employment.

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The tech talent gap is a self-inflicted wound

January 20, 2022

Even with well-publicized efforts by many companies to make their hiring more inclusive, the sort of workers that command higher tech salaries are still those with (often elite) college degrees and years of what industry leaders consider to be the most relevant experience. They’re rarely among the 70+ million workers – identified by Opportunity@Work who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (or STARs), rather than through a four-year degree–many of whom already have the skills to succeed in higher-wage jobs if employers would give them a chance.

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Millions Have Lost a Step Into the Middle Class, Researches Say

January 14, 2022

In the shift to skills-based hiring, Opportunity@Work and other groups refer to such workers as STARs, for skilled through alternative routes. The term is meant to emphasize the skills that a large share of American workers have acquired instead of a degree that they lack.

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Rethinking The So-Called “Skills Gap”

November 3, 2021

The bias that equates low wage with low skill, and therefore low value, contributes to an unnecessarily steep climb for STARs – and also keeps employers blind to the talent they desperately need. This not only limits career opportunities and wage growth potential for individuals; it has a significant and systemic impact on the U.S. economy. For example, the computer and information technology sector — one ripe with job opportunities for STARs — is projected to grow 11% between 2019 and 2029. Yet, for every individual day an IT job remains vacant, the average organization can expect to lose more than $400.

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College Degrees Are Overrated

October 18, 2021

Byron Auguste has co-founded a nonprofit organization, Opportunity@Work, whose purpose is to give a leg up to people he calls STARs, short for “skilled through alternative routes.” I interviewed him recently.

He told me that he’s haunted by the invisible tragedy of successful careers that never happen because applicants without college degrees aren’t given a chance. It affects first-time job-seekers, those stuck in dead-end careers, and older victims of layoffs who no longer qualify for the jobs they landed at a more forgiving time.

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To elevate Black talent, employers must reimagine how they hire and promote

October 5, 2021

Whether you call this pool Black talent without four-year degrees or Black STARs (“skilled through alternative routes”), one thing is clear: These workers are not “unconventional” or “non-traditional.” They are the majority, they are extraordinary and they have been needlessly excluded from both opportunities and advancement for far too long. Many already work for companies struggling to find skilled talent in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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Erica Groshen Interview

September 3, 2021

“You’re talking about proactively recruiting STARs just like companies choose campuses to recruit. They need to purposefully think about where to locate people who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes.”

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Opinion: The majority of Americans lack a college degree. Why do so many employers require one?

July 20, 2021

Some say a bachelor’s degree signals cognitive skills, commitment and a capacity to learn. However, college is not the only way to learn, nor the only source of skills. Our workforce includes more than 70 million workers who don’t have bachelor’s degrees but who are “skilled through alternative routes,” or STARs. Some of these unconventional paths include military service, certificate programs and community college. Mostly, STARS learn by doing, on the job.

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The college degree barrier to work

April 27, 2021

There are millions of Americans who have the skills to get higher-level, higher-paying jobs but aren’t considered for those roles because they don’t have college degrees.

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Up to 30 Million in U.S. Have the Skills to Earn 70% More, Researchers Say

December 3, 2020

The findings point to the potential of upward mobility for people without a college degree.

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There Are 6 Million Black Workers Missing From Your Talent Pool

October 6, 2020

By shifting from degree requirements to skills based hiring, employers can make their jobs more accessible to the 68% of Black workers who do not have degrees.

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We shouldn’t chase economic recovery; we should chase economic redesign

July 9, 2020

America needs to think differently about the value of jobs during the coronavirus recovery, writes Karan Chopra.

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The Disparate Racial Impact of Requiring a College Degree

June 28, 2020

Among U.S. workers over 25, only 26% of blacks, and 40% of whites, have a bachelor’s or higher.

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How Coronavirus Is Reshaping The Job Search Now — And For The Future

“We’ve seen in past downturns that what many employers have done is double down on college degrees and pedigrees,” says the founder of a nonprofit that helps build job skills.

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New Podcast Explores Big Ideas to Help All Americans Access Meaningful Careers

Mar 04, 2020

Strada Education Network, today, announced the launch of Lessons Earned, a 20-minute interview-style podcast co-hosted by longtime education journalist Ben Wildavsky and his Strada Education Network colleagues. The first six episodes of Season One are available for streaming beginning today.

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You should stop worrying about robots taking your job

January 20, 2020

The widespread fears of a robot uprising are not only wrong – they are blocking us from better working conditions.

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5 big ideas about the future of hiring and workforce development

November 12, 2019

Byron Auguste, CEO and cofounder of Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit social enterprise expanding access to career opportunities, was the keynote speaker. Auguste said the disconnect in the workforce is an opportunity gap — not a skills gap.

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The US labor market is broken ... but an Opportunity Marketplace could save it

August 14, 2019

No market is more broken than the labor market, or with such dire consequences. In particular, 100 million-plus adults without four-year college degrees are deeply disadvantaged, screened out of millions of good jobs. Right now, workers without degrees might as well be in a different country to those with a B.A.

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Why unskilled labor perpetuates stereotypes about gender, education

July 28, 2019

“The idea that there’s some uni-dimensional merit that can be determined by how selective the school you go to is not only a bad idea,” said Byron Auguste, former Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, “it’s an untrue idea and it’s a dangerous idea.”

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Helping Anyone Who Can Do the Job to Get the Job: A Conversation with Byron Auguste

July 3, 2019

Today’s hiring practices are biased against people who do not have a college degree, says Opportunity@Work’s Byron Auguste. “We should not and cannot tell black people or women or older people that they can’t apply for a job. But employers can – and do – say that if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, we don’t care about your skills. We don’t care what you can contribute. We won’t hire you.”

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What Happens After America Graduates From High School?

June 26, 2019

We often say today’s economic shifts are “unprecedented.” But there is a precedent – the American high school movement. A century ago, we adapted and built the strongest middle class the world had ever seen. Now we can create a lifelong learning system to rebuild our middle class for the age of AI.

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Tech Jobs Lead to the Middle Class. Just Not for the Masses.

May 19, 2019

Mastering code and applying it in business, some experts say, holds the promise of becoming the modern path to the middle class for people without four-year college degrees. And nonprofit programs like those used by Ms. Ball are considered central to getting people there.

“Tech jobs can be seen as the new manufacturing jobs,” said Byron Auguste, chief executive of Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit group that focuses on work-force issues.

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Why the College Degree Is a Signal – and Why That Should Worry You

March 19, 2019

Enterprise would certainly resist that notion of sorting by signal, as would others. But this isn’t crazy talk. The same week the admissions scandal broke, Byron Auguste, an economist and the founder of Opportunity@Work, published an article in Forbes that questioned the signal of the degree. “Far too many employers use a college pedigree as a crutch — a simplistic shortcut when they lack an efficient way to narrow down their applicant pool,” he wrote.

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Failing By Degrees: Why College Grads Need Non-College Grads To Succeed

March 14, 2019

Despite earning better wages than those without degrees, college grads have increasing economic anxiety. Perhaps their concerns are a reflection of career insecurity rising from the bottom of our economy up. Maybe the success of those with college degrees is more tied to those without than we think.

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Low Wage, Not Low Skill: Why Devaluing Our Workers Matters

February 7, 2019

A growing cynicism around the future of work tells us that workers in so-called low-skill jobs intrinsically lack the intelligence, ambition, and ability to master the skills needed for 21st century work. However, low wages do not mean low skill—and we devalue these workers at our own peril.

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Future of work: Don’t blame the tools, fix the rules

September 5, 2018

What really distinguished the environment in 1970 were the more effective policies and practices for navigating economic and technological changes. Put differently, it was more the rules of the game that created better pathways to the middle class — often making technology an empowering tool in the hands of workers like my father. This was not because of luck. It was because of deliberate choices, including long-term investments, by our government, industry, and citizenry.

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Skills And Tomorrow's Jobs Report: The Usual Suspects

July 5, 2018

Jobs Day tomorrow will once again evoke a never-ending debate around school, STEM, and salary. None of them explains the underlying patterns of dysfunction in the U.S. labor market. Here’s what you need to know about the skills gap and how you can solve it.

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Data Sheet—How to Share Benefits of the Digital Future With More People

June 27, 2018

Byron Auguste of Opportunity@Work has documented the number of jobs that require technical or advanced degrees that can be done by non-academic credentialed people—if only they get the opportunity. 

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Why Corporate Recruiters Shouldn’t Be So Obsessed With Prestigious College Degrees

June 26, 2019

One reason that businesses struggle to find capable workers is because they have increased their hiring from top-level universities, said Byron Auguste, CEO of the workforce training nonprofit Opportunity@Work. The problem is that these schools haven’t increased the number of students enrolled to match the demand, he explained.

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A B.A. Isn’t the Only Way

June 4, 2018

Employers ought to do more as well. They rely too much on automated hiring tools that exacerbate the bias against workers who lack four-year degrees. To address this, 1,300 companies have partnered with Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., to create a platform for training and certifying non-traditional candidates for available IT jobs.

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Don’t Fall For Employers’ Whining About A ‘Skills Gap’

May 17, 2018

There are about 6.5 million job openings in the U.S., a record high. The number of people looking for work without success is falling as well, and this combination means that the economy now has close to one active job seeker for every open job. The unemployment rate is below 4 percent — another indication that workers who are actively looking for jobs can find them.

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Why Companies Should Hire for Potential Over Pedigree: Q&A with Byron Auguste

April 24, 2018

Auguste is CEO and co-founder of Opportunity@Work, a non-profit organization expanding access to technology career opportunities for overlooked and underrepresented job seekers. Auguste spoke in San Francisco at the inaugural Workday Opportunity Onramps, a workforce development conference with a mission to connect driven individuals from diverse backgrounds with unfilled jobs.

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The New Casualties of Automation

December 21, 2017

Automation isn’t inherently a boon for those with means. As Byron Auguste—the CEO and co-founder of Opportunity@Work, an organization that connects people who lack credentials to jobs—said on a Brookings Institution panel earlier this month, it doesn’t “naturally empower the top of the economic pyramid.” Nor, he argued, is automation like gravity—a force of nature that can’t be stopped

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How Innovative Hiring Practices Can Help Solve The Tech Industry’s Diversity Problem

August 21, 2017

The guiding creed behind skills-based hiring is “if you can do the job, you should get the job.” Whether you learned web design by maintaining your church’s website, or you learned to code in the army reserve, or you graduated with a degree in computer science from a top-tier four-year college, equal skills should mean equal opportunity. And what’s exciting is that following this approach is win-win. It broadens access to our economy and promotes social justice.  And, at the same time, companies that tap into this pool of applicants who took less-traditional paths to build their skills find that they have uncovered a significant competitive advantage, especially in markets where the cost of the most sought-after tech hires is constantly escalating.

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