Opportunity@Work’s STARs Public Sector Hub Helps Government Leaders Accelerate the Shift to Skills-Based Employment

National nonprofit expands work with federal, state, and local leaders to support the 70 million workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Opportunity@Work, the nonprofit social enterprise working to advance the economic mobility of the millions of American workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs), today announced a new STARs Public Sector Hub that will help federal, state, and local leaders implement hiring practices and advance talent pipelines based on skills rather than degrees. Building on the organization’s existing work in the public sector, the Hub will collaborate with a network of partners to provide insights and guidance to government entities working to advance skills-based hiring practices that can both address persistent workforce shortages and create new pathways to economic opportunity for their constituents.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is creating millions of good-paying jobs and expanding economic opportunity, including in urban and rural communities across the U.S. Many communities need additional know-how and support to quickly make these investments and set workers up with the skills and training they need for success,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. “Organizations like Opportunity@Work are helping state and local governments use their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to make sure that those opportunities are available to American workers, particularly those without a college degree.”

The STARs Public Sector Hub is designed to support public sector leaders working to implement landmark federal investments to support post-pandemic economic recovery, modernize the country’s infrastructure, and bolster the manufacturing sector. To fulfill the promise of these historic funding opportunities while also building a more inclusive and equitable workforce, a growing number of public sector leaders have already taken action to expand their pools of talent by hiring for skills rather than degrees. Currently, there is no state in the nation in which STARs are sufficiently represented in state hiring – leading to a deficit of nearly one million STARs who have been excluded from state public sector employment. However, 16 states – beginning with Maryland in spring 2022 – have announced plans to remove degrees from job postings, with the potential to reduce this deficit by nearly half, opening opportunities for more than 400,000 STARs who have historically been excluded from state jobs.

“When I was Governor of Maryland, we worked with Opportunity@Work to transition our state’s hiring to a skills-based approach based on their research showing that employers are leaving talent on the table by continuing to prioritize degrees in the hiring process,” said Governor Larry Hogan, founder of An America United. “Opportunity@Work’s STARs Public Sector Hub is expanding on that work by using their wealth of data, research, and expertise about STARs and skill-based hiring to enable federal, state, and local governments to play a leadership role in catalyzing change across the labor market.”

Expanding on Opportunity@Work’s long-standing support of workforce development initiatives in states across the country, the STARs Public Sector Hub is a one-stop shop of STARs-focused tools, data, and resources for federal, state, and local governments to understand the criticality of STARs to any successful workforce strategy. To accelerate learning and catalyze the deep expertise already existing within the U.S. workforce system, Opportunity@Work, with key policy and workforce partners, will work with government agencies to effectively put skills-based policies and employment approaches into practice.

The STARs talent category represents 70 million U.S. workers skilled through alternative routes, rather than a bachelor’s degree – STARs gain skills on-the-job, through military service, community college, partial college completion, workforce training programs, skills bootcamps, and more. STARs also represent the full diversity of our nation’s workforce – including the majority of Black, Hispanic, white, rural, and veteran workers.

“Across the country, we hear from employers, ‘We can’t find the talent we need.’ And yet, we hear from STARs: ‘I know what I can do – but no one will give me a chance.’ This disconnect is harmful and unnecessary. As major employers, state and local governments can adopt skills-first hiring to tap more skilled talent to meet their obligations to the communities they serve, and send the message that if you can do the job, you can get the job,” said Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity@Work. “As this change gathers pace, Opportunity@Work is committed to help public leaders get it right: to make it a win for workers, public agencies, taxpayers, and communities. As changing skills needs transform work, regions that learn to tap into all their talents will out-innovate and out-compete those that don’t. Millions of STARs are ready, willing, and able to contribute to that success.”

To learn more, visit the STARs Public Sector Hub.

What others are saying about the STARs Public Sector Hub:

“Earlier this year, I joined a bipartisan movement of Governors in signing an Executive Order that prioritizes work experience and practical skills above a college degree for New Jersey State employment opportunities. For too long, many smart and talented New Jersey STARs have had a distinct disadvantage in accessing good, public sector roles due to unnecessary degree requirements. Opportunity@Work’s STARs Public Sector Hub will provide government leaders with the resources they need to take the lead on tearing the paper ceiling and demonstrating how to tap into STARs to strengthen the talent pipeline into state government and open opportunities to so many.”

– Phil Murphy, Governor, State of New Jersey

“In Utah, we’ve removed degrees as a barrier-to-entry for 98% of roles in the state executive branch. Instead of focusing on degrees, we’re focused on demonstrated competence. This is a move that can strengthen state governments, make the government a model employer, and connect STARs to thriving wages and careers.”

– Spencer Cox, Governor, State of Utah

“Iowa is home to nearly 850,000 STARs – over 60% of the state’s workforce. For Iowa to build a competitive and sustainable economy, it will need to tap into the talents of these workers to fill critical roles in demand in the public and private sectors. We’re excited that the STARs Public Sector Hub will be launching in 2024 to provide us with the resources and know-how needed to advance us – and so many others like us in the public sector – on our skills-based journey.”

– Rob Sand, Iowa State Auditor, Office of Auditor of State

“Over the past two years, the federal government and private sector have made unprecedented investments in place-based economic growth. Now, the question is whether states and regions across the country will be able to scale up the workforce necessary to make the most of those investments. STARs – skilled but often overlooked workers—are an important solution to this talent shortage, and the STARs Public Sector Hub can help economic and workforce development leaders connect these workers to the economic opportunities generated by this historic investment surge.”

– Joseph Parilla, Senior Fellow and Director of Applied Research, Brookings Metro

“A growing body of research indicates that governments are leaving talent on the table by prioritizing degrees in the hiring process. Opportunity@Work’s new STARs Public Sector Hub is translating that research into action, and will help city, state, and federal government partners attract the talent required to deliver the services citizens depend on.”

– Sara Mogulescu, President, The Volcker Alliance

“Over the past several years, Grads of Life has been working deeply with Fortune 500 employers who are leveraging skills-first talent management practices to expand their talent pools and broaden access to economic opportunity and mobility for individuals without a four-year degree. As the skills-first movement continues to gain momentum, it is outstanding to see public sector leaders committing to make STARs a key part of their talent strategy, and we look forward to supporting their success adopting critical skills-first talent management practices to achieve their goals.”

– Elyse Rosenblum, Managing Director & Founder, Grads of Life


About Opportunity@Work
Opportunity@Work is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to rewire the labor market to enable at least 1 million working adults in America to translate their learning into earning. Opportunity@Work engages with corporate, philanthropic, and workforce partners to directly address the barriers that STARs face, recognize STARs’ talent, and eliminate unnecessary degree requirements for open roles. Their Tear the Paper Ceiling campaign with Ad Council brought together a growing coalition of more than 60 corporate and non-profit partners to share hiring insights and launch a national public services advertising campaign to raise awareness of, and support the hiring of STARs. Learn more at www.opportunityatwork.org.