Coalition Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week By Showing How to Tear the Paper Ceiling with Apprenticeships

Nationwide campaign led by Opportunity@Work and the Ad Council highlights efforts apprenticeship efforts by partners to improve economic mobility for STARs – workers skilled through alternative routes, rather than through a bachelor’s degree

WASHINGTON – Last week, as the U.S. Department of Labor hosted its 8th annual National Apprenticeship Week, organizations nationwide launched new apprenticeship efforts and highlighted existing successful apprenticeship programs with the potential to create pathways to economic mobility for millions of workers across the country. As a growing number of policymakers and employers embrace learn-and-earn models, Opportunity@Work and its partners in the ”Tear the Paper Ceiling” campaign debuted and shared critical work to support apprenticeships as a pathway to economic opportunity for STARs – workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes, rather than through a bachelor’s degree.

“Apprenticeship programs represent a critical pathway for STARs in the U.S. to access higher-wage jobs, and we’re thrilled to highlight the efforts of our partners to create more opportunities for the 50% of the labor market that does not have a degree, but who have developed valuable skills through community college, workforce training, bootcamps, certificate programs, military service or on-the-job learning,” said Georgia Gillette, VP of Strategic Alliances at Opportunity@Work. “As STARs continue to face barriers to roles they can succeed in, we support expanding apprenticeship efforts that can help close the wage gap and help STARs translate their learning into earning.”

Research from Opportunity@Work has found that there are more than 70 million STARs in the U.S. today – 32 million of whom have the skills for significantly higher-wage work (72% higher wages on average) based on their current roles. Unfortunately, STARs are blocked by the ‘paper ceiling’ – the invisible barrier that comes at every turn for workers without a bachelor’s degree. New research from Opportunity@Work and Lightcast have found that apprenticeships are a growing avenue to tear the paper ceiling as 40% of new apprenticeships are for roles that traditionally required a bachelor’s degree, creating an opportunity for STARs to get higher-wage work.

In September, more than 50 partners joined together to “Tear the Paper Ceiling” and kick off a multiyear national public service advertising (PSA) campaign calling on businesses and decision makers to remove the barriers blocking 50% of workers in the U.S. from accessing upward mobility. The PSA campaign has been appearing nationwide across all advertising formats – TV, radio, digital, social media, out-of-home and print – and National Apprenticeship Week was the latest opportunity to elevate partners’ work on behalf of STARs – who represented nine out of every 10 registered apprentices in 2021.

Tear the Paper Ceiling Coalition Member Efforts Include:

  • IBM: Debuted a new video story highlighting the mutual benefits for both employer and apprentice featuring a tech apprentice from IBM.
  • Opportunity@Work:  On Tuesday, November 15th, launched the Equitable Tech Apprenticeship Toolkit with the Kapor Center to focus on racial and educational equity best practices and tools for employers. On Wednesday, November 16th, joined Brookings Metro and the Kapor Center for their Racial Equity and Inclusion in Tech webinar to explore the promise of apprenticeship as a first step toward normalizing skills-based hiring, recognizing learning in multiple forms, and accelerating racial diversity in tech. 
  • SkillUp (in partnership with JFF): SKillUp partnered with JFF to develop an Earn and Learn Toolkit – which was released on Tuesday, November 15th. This toolkit is for small and medium-sized businesses to explore how common earn and learn models — paid internships, registered apprenticeships, and on-the-job training — can benefit these businesses by connecting them to a broader, more diverse pool of workers to fill critical skills and labor gaps, while reducing costs to recruit and onboard new workers. 
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): As a Department of Labor Ambassador for Apprenticeship, the SHRM Foundation hosted a webcast – An Apprenticeship for HR: Why It Works – on Thursday, November 17th to learn more about their Human Resource Registered Apprenticeship Program, which is designed for employers to hire, develop and build their own HR talent pipeline using the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge. 
  • Year Up: Year Up Professional Resources (YUPRO), owned by Year Up, hosted YUPRO: National Apprenticeship Week webinar on Wednesday, November 16th to highlight how apprenticeship programs will continue to shape the future of our nation’s workforce. YUPRO also shared two resources for employers and STARs: a case study for employers to learn more about the value of an apprenticeship program, and a guide for STARs to learn how apprenticeships can help launch their career.

“After years of being stuck in lower-wage jobs and facing barriers to career advancement, an apprenticeship program allowed me to tear the paper ceiling and find a job that recognized my skills,” said LaShana Lewis, STARs Advisory Council Chair. “There are millions of STARs who have the skills to thrive in higher-earning roles – if employers give them the opportunity. It’s clear from this year’s National Apprenticeship Week that momentum is growing to develop and expand apprenticeships so STARs can earn to their full potential.”

To learn more about the coalition and explore ways to start tearing the paper ceiling, visit


About Opportunity@Work
Opportunity@Work is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to enable at least 1 million working adults in America to translate their learning into earning – generating a $20 billion boost in annual earnings. Opportunity@Work engages with corporate, philanthropic, and workforce partners to directly address the barriers that STARs face, recognize STARs’ talent, and remove bachelor’s degree screens. Learn more at