Project Overview

Workers without a bachelor’s degree face increasingly narrow pathways for economic mobility, as employers prioritize degrees when hiring for jobs with greater potential for career advancement. Many workers without college degrees are “skilled through alternative routes” (STARs) but are unable to signal their value in the labor market. Greater empirical evidence is needed to establish STARs’ value for higher-wage, higher-mobility jobs and career pathways.

Opportunity@Work will research occupational pathways that can drive upward mobility for an estimated 71 million STARs in the US labor market. A research team led by Papia Debroy and Peter Q. Blair will analyze and compare public and private job transition data on STARs and workers with college degrees to generate insights on how the former can better navigate the labor market by leveraging skills. The team will build upon STARs Insights, a research program already underway, and develop products tailored to employers and workforce practitioners to catalyze behavior change in hiring and talent management practices. The team will also test their ideas through stellarworkx, Opportunity@Work’s talent platform that matches employers with STARs.


Job search and matching Executive Summary January 14, 2022

Rise with the STARs

New research from WorkRise grantee Opportunity@Work demonstrates the harm and exclusion workers without four-year degrees who are “skilled through alternative routes” (STARs) experience in the labor market.

Papia Debroy, Justin Heck

Grantee Research

January 14, 2022
Employer practices Report July 01, 2021

Skills, Degrees, and Labor Market Inequality

In a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, researchers demonstrate that workers with college degrees have dramatically better access to higher-wage occupations where the skill requirements exceed the workers’ observed skill compared to workers without degrees.

Peter Q. Blair, Papia Debroy, Justin Heck

Grantee Research

July 01, 2021

Working Knowledge

Job search and matching February 22, 2022
Changemaker Q&A

Activating Pathways for Mobility: A Q&A with Opportunity@Work

WorkRise grantee Opportunity@Work is building a movement to dismantle structural inequities in the labor market to expand opportunity to workers without college degrees.

Archana Pyati

February 22, 2022
Employer practices October 06, 2021

Skills, Degrees, and Persistent Inequality: The Opportunity Gap between STARs and Workers with 4-Year Degrees

Workers without four-year degrees, many of whom have significant job experience and are skilled through alternative routes, face a systemic opportunity gap in the labor market.

Justin Heck

October 06, 2021

Past Events

Young smiling seller in apron behind counter with vegetables weighing bananas on scale in modern supermarket



Leveraging Workers’ Skills for an Inclusive Economy: Tools, Resources, and Evidence

Thursday, July 22, 2021 12:00 pm - 01:30 pm
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