There are more than 70 million Americans in the workforce without a college degree. And there’s a movement underway to give those workers and job seekers better access to open jobs.
“The ‘paper ceiling’ is when employers use degrees as a proxy for shutting out the millions of STARs – workers that are Skilled Through Alternative Routes – from being able to access well-paying careers,” says Bridgette Gray, chief customer officer for the nonprofit Opportunity@Work.
WorkingNation sat down with Gray at Presented by JFF Horizons – See Beyond 2022 in New Orleans.
She says a four-year degree isn’t the only way to gain the skills needed to do a job well. “We want to make sure that employers understand that there are multiple ways that stars gain skills – primarily through their work experience.” STARs, says Gray, should also be able to talk about the skills they’ve developed in a really smart way “so that employers really understand how to connect those dots to the jobs that they have available.”
Gray also says it is important that the message she is trying to share is not misinterpreted as a message that a degree isn’t valuable or something you should dismiss.
“As a Black woman – and we know Black women are the most educated – we don’t want our college education to be diminished, right? We want to continue to be able to access that. And so in the Black community, we want more people to reach their educational goals. Sometimes the pathway to get to college may be longer for some people, college is really expensive, but there are ways of learning to build skills, to eventually get to college. And so what I would tell the Black community is to continue to strive for every opportunity to continue to learn.”
Learn more about Opportunity@Work.Learn more about the Opportunity@Work-led campaign to champion skills-based hiring.