Navigate with the STARs: Reimagining Equitable Pathways to Mobility
The COVID-19 crisis lays bare the deficiencies in our labor market. STARs comprise two thirds of our essential workforce and yet they continue to experience the decades-long trends in wage decline and limited upward mobility. We must reimagine our approach to our workforce to achieve an equitable recovery.
In our current labor market, workers build increasingly broad skill sets, only to experience stagnant, or even worse, downward wage trajectories. These trends undermine our American Dream, which rests on the belief that workers will experience upward mobility as they work hard and develop skills.
We must reimagine an agile workforce ecosystem with clear pathways that allow workers to leverage their skills and learning towards higher value work, so that they can meet workforce needs and experience upward mobility. Our latest research provides three key findings and a roadmap to build a stronger labor market for STARs.
While our skills analysis shows that STARs have the skills for higher paid work, our analysis of job transitions reveals that they are not filling these roles in their representative share. STARs are making job transitions in high numbers- STARs account for more than their representative share of movement in the labor market – but their transitions do not result in wage gain.
Coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement, Barbara was one of six Black students to desegregate her college. The pressures of being a young mother in an inhospitable environment forced her out of college and she worked in factory jobs to make ends meet. She followed a long and winding path to become a nationally respected family support specialist.
Here we see a Gateway job: a Customer Service Representative. This middle-wage job is accessible from multiple entry-level origin jobs that employ many STARs. Workers in this Gateway job transition with relative frequency to higher wage destination jobs in Sales across multiple industries.
Growth in the 292 destination jobs can provide increasing opportunity for STARs in the coming years. These jobs are projected to add 2.2 million positions over the next ten years, while turnover in these 292 occupations is 9.9 million openings per year – this means close to 100 million jobs in the next ten years that can offer wage gain to STARs. These calculations do not include estimates for new-to-world jobs.
As the economy creates new jobs in growing fields such as cybersecurity, healthcare, and IT support, these jobs could be made open to STARs. The Gateway job concept provides a template for the design of emerging pathways.
Thaddaeus started his career with no formal training in IT. He had developed all his skills by leveraging his affinity for computers over a series of jobs. He taught himself video editing, audio editing, and even to work with several operating systems. He also developed strong problem solving and communications skills. These skills were important as he helped his university transition to on-line learning this year.
Black and Hispanic STARs make lower wages in their origin jobs than white STARs. They also make more job transitions and these transitions are of shorter skill distance for smaller wage gains. As a result, they experience more churn for less wage gain than white workers.
Our analysis of upward transitions for women STARs shows that they make transitions of lower skill distance than men and are less well compensated for transitions of equal distance.
Race and gender disparities undermine promising pathways for STARs. Even as STARs leverage their skills to achieve upward mobility, we see disparities. STARs decline in number as they transition from low-wage origin jobs to middle-wage and high-wage destination jobs. The decline is even steeper for Black, Hispanic, and Women STARs.
Our research underscores inequities in the labor market that harm workers, but it also shows a way forward. With intention, we can broaden pathways and facilitate STARs access to higher paying jobs.
Leverage your jobs to open pathways
Each employer can take action based on the jobs and skills deployed in your business.
If you are an employer with many origin jobs, define a skills-based pathway to higher wage work for your own STARs.
Understand where your workers could go next in the local labor market. Consider the skills they demonstrate on the job and how can those skills be deployed for mobility in the broader local labor market.
If you are an employer with many middle wage roles, open those roles to STARs.
Understand the origin jobs in your local market where workers are developing and demonstrating the skills you most need in your roles. Define a skills-based pathway into your jobs that is accessible to STARs in your local labor market.
If you are an employer with a new-to-world role, design this role to facility entry for STARs.
Assess the skills needed for this new-to-world role and compare it to high volume origin roles. Identify the jobs that can serve as feeders for your new-to-world role, based on skill similarity, and build a pathway based on those skills.
Contribute to the infrastructure for promising pathways
Work with the other stakeholders in your workforce ecosystem to support promising pathways.
Partner with other employers.
Work together to facilitate job transitions for STARs across companies and industries.
Invest in training partners.
Partner with and support training and skilling entities like community colleges, bootcamps, nonprofit organizations, who support STARs in their skill building efforts.
Collaborate with workforce entities.
Work with the workforce development organizations in your area to ensure that STARs have the information and resources they need to access these pathways.
Support local services.
Fund the wraparound services, such as childcare and transportation, to minimize barriers to work and support the stability needed for upward mobility.
Update your employee value proposition
Revise your core talent acquisition and retention strategy to ensure mobility for your workers.
Conduct your own skills similarity analysis.
Look across jobs in your company and your community.
Audit your workforce.
Account for the educational attainment, race, and gender makeup of your workforce. Set targets for STAR mobility.
Set the expectation.
Tell your workers that they have a path to higher wages by coming to work for you.
Have the report sent to you to learn more about the findings, methodology and citations in this analysis.