The U.S. labor market has a perceived shortage of qualified workers, yet millions of workers with in-demand skills are being overlooked, undervalued, and filtered out before even being considered. We call these over 70 million workers STARs: workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes.
STARs make up 50% of the U.S. workforce and have developed valuable skills through community college, workforce training, bootcamps, certificate programs, military service, or on-the-job learning, rather than through a bachelor’s degree.
STARs face a “paper ceiling” – the invisible barrier that comes at every turn for workers without a bachelor’s degree. Lack of alumni networks, biased algorithms, degree screens, stereotypes, and misperceptions all contribute to the paper ceiling, creating barriers to upward economic mobility for STARs, even though they have demonstrated skills for higher-wage work.