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Spotlight on Black STARs: Insights for Employers to Access the Skilled and Diverse Talent They’ve Been Missing

There are more than 70 million STARs–workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes, rather than through a bachelor’s degree–in the American workforce. They include millions of Black STARs who have the skills employers seek to fill in-demand jobs, and yet these workers are missing from traditional talent pipelines.

Almost two-thirds of Black workers are STARs.

According to our most recent research, of the 16 million Black workers active in the U.S. labor market, 10 million are STARs–62% of all Black workers and 7% of the overall workforce. 

Employers cannot find the diverse talent they need to meet emerging market needs without taking account of Black STARs.

Black STARs tend to live in areas that historically offer limited economic opportunity.

Our STAR Mobility Index allows us to compare Black STARs’ opportunities for economic mobility across regions, using measures of economic mobility, equity, and security. The areas that present the most opportunity for Black STARs are those where Black STARs live in lower numbers, while many areas with a higher share of Black STARs offer them less mobility.

Half of Black STARs work in just 25 jobs.

There’s a remarkable concentration of Black workers in 25 specific jobs. These jobs are disproportionately low-wage; only four pay above the national median hourly wage.

These jobs are not low-value or low-skill. A number of essential jobs–truck drivers, home health aides, and cashiers–have become increasingly important and harder to fill.

STARs have transferable skills that position them for jobs that employers are eager to fill. Half of Black STARs are demonstrating skills on the job that position them for higher wage work right now.

Pathways to higher wage work exist, but access for Black STARs must expand.

Just over one-fourth of Black STARs are in jobs we call Gateway jobs–middle- and high-wage jobs that offer access to other good jobs, as illustrated here. 

This sales pathway is traveled by thousands of STARs annually as they move from common entry-level jobs in retail sales and food service, through a Gateway job like sales worker supervisor, and into higher-paying jobs as managers. 

As the proportion of Black STARs in each job shows, there is a drop-off in Black workers along the pathways.


Retail Sales Pathway

Employers must broaden and build promising pathways for Black STARs to strengthen talent pipelines and diversify their workforce.

The structural inequities reflected in this data diminish the pool of talent for employers and undermine the economic mobility of Black STARs. The concentration of black STARs into 25 jobs, however, allows employers to focus with laser precision on this pool of talent. Employers can:

  • Think expansively and creatively about the skills needed for a job
  • Consider geography as part of your Black STARs strategy
  • Engage proactively with talent developers to shape the local talent pool

Download our Spotlight on Black STARs

Learn more about the opportunities to broaden and strengthen talent supply chains by sourcing Black STARs.