California’s Online Community College Taps National Workforce Nonprofit to Help Move 8.4 Million Californians into Higher Wage, More Secure Careers

Against a backdrop of COVID-19 jobs crisis, Opportunity@Work and Calbright College team up to help Californians develop the skills to succeed in well paid, in-demand jobs

WASHINGTON – As California mobilizes to address the dual crisis in public health and economic health induced by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, nonprofit Opportunity@Work and Calbright College have announced a new partnership to connect California community college students who are “STARs” – workers who don’t have four-year degrees but are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) – with engaged employers hiring based on specific skills. Through this partnership, working learners in California will be able to build new skills in online programs targeted to in-demand jobs, and connect through a digital marketplace platform to employers hiring for middle- to high-wage work, with matches based on skills. 

California has untapped talent that’s needed to rebuild its economy equitably. Recent research conducted by Opportunity@Work and Accenture found that of 71 million STARs in the U.S., 30 million have built foundational skills in lower wage jobs preparing them to succeed in much better paid, in-demand jobs. What millions of STARs need is “last mile” learning for specific in-demand competencies validated by employers for high-demand, well-paid jobs in technology, health care, infrastructure, and other fast-growing fields. 

Not only do California’s approximately 8 million STARs make up more than 42% of the active workforce, they are also among the workers hardest hit by COVID-19. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics April unemployment numbers, workers with only a high school diploma and workers with “some college or an associate degree” have unemployment rates of 17.3%  and 15% respectively, while workers with a bachelor’s degree remain at an 8.4% unemployment rate. Although the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is likely to worsen the overall job market in the near term, and recovery from these unprecedented conditions will take time, California will rebound and rebuild. California’s post-COVID renewal will be powered by diverse talent and new skills. 

“California’s STARs are working learners who show up every day to contribute energy, creativity, and skills to our economy. It’s past time that our institutions show up for them,”  said Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity@Work. “Even as the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis deals a body blow to the California and U.S. job markets, millions of STARs whose contributions were overlooked in the past are now rightly seen as ‘essential’ workers. STARs will be just as essential to rebuilding California’s innovation economy. Our new partnership will help employers to find new talent among STARs who’ve demonstrated their relevant skill sets in Calbright’s online, competency-based programs, build a faster feedback loop to align demands of California’s innovative and diverse industries to the programs of California’s unparalleled network of public community colleges, and deliver on career pathways to higher earnings for more hard-working STARs in California.”

Using Opportunity@Work’s marketplace platform, Californians – who enroll in Calbright College training programs that prepare them for upwardly mobile careers – can connect to employers who have signaled their desire to hire based on skills, not pedigree.

“Calbright is built to serve Californians who are disconnected from traditional higher education, offering skills-based training that best positions students for career advancement and wage gain,” said Ajita Menon, President of Calbright College. “We’re focused on finding solutions to the mismatch between employers and education – even more so now considering the current crisis’ staggering economic fallout. Opportunity@Work and their new marketplace for STARs can connect our certified students with hiring managers, which will in turn create real economic improvement for people stuck in low-paying work or unemployed due to COVID-19. Together, we will identify new opportunities for in-demand program development, and ensure that workers will be valued based on the skills they have – not the degrees they don’t.”

“Our marketplace brings together training providers and employers to enable STARs to chart career pathways where they live that will create real economic mobility for them and their families,” said Komal Kirtikar, Opportunity@Work’s Senior Vice President and Head of Marketplace.  “We’re excited to bring this unique platform to California this summer so we can help the STARs already undervalued by our broken labor market – and further buffeted by COVID-19 – to convert their learning into better earnings, and accessing meaningful work that helps rebuild California better.” 

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About Opportunity@Work:

Opportunity@Work is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase career opportunities for the more than 71 million adults in the U.S. who do not have a four-year college degree but are Skilled Through Alternative Routes – or, “STARs.” We serve STARs through a suite of products, tools, and solutions that enable individuals to access the skills and jobs that lead to meaningful, well-paying careers. We empower the diverse ecosystem supporting STARs in a movement uniting employers, educators, workforce leaders, philanthropists, and advocates. 

About Calbright College:

Calbright College is the newest addition to the California community college system – a public, online campus designed to prepare millions of workers across the state for careers with great pay, full benefits, and future opportunities for promotion. Calbright blends best practices from online instruction and traditional workforce development into a unique experience that promotes and supports students from registration to career support. Created in 2018, Calbright is the 115th California community college and 73rd district, governed by an independent Board of Trustees serving concurrently as the California Community Colleges Board of Governors

For the latest Opportunity@Work news and information, visit the Opportunity@Work Media Center.