The immense hiring challenge that enterprises face today (with nearly 80% of employers currently facing challenges in finding and hiring the right talent) is not an insurmountable problem. It is a product of choices that historically have prioritized hiring shortcuts, such as education requirements, over genuine skills. The good news is that a solution is on the horizon - a skills-focused alternative hiring movement is gaining momentum. Skilled workers and companies are joining forces to shape a more equitable future where skills take precedence over traditional credentials.
What Are STARs?
Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) are workers who have acquired their skills through avenues such as military service, community college, training programs, partial college completion, or on-the-job experience. With a population of 70 million, STARs constitute 50% of the workforce. Many of these individuals have gained valuable experience while previously incarcerated through training programs and/or rigorous educational opportunities. And yet, despite the fact that these individuals may be just as if not more skilled than those trained through traditional routes, there are more than 70 million of these workers in the labor force today, representing a wide, diverse, and capable talent pool.
It’s Time to Hire STARs
A staggering 62% percent of Americans over the age of 25 are non-degree holders. When considering diverse populations such as Black or Hispanic adults, this number increases to 72% and 79%, respectively. While the data shows that STARs bring value to the table, employers may still be hesitant to hire from this immense talent pool. The perceived risk of hiring someone without conventional credentials, existing bias and stereotypes about individuals with non-traditional backgrounds, and overall resistance to change remain barriers to employing this population of STARs. Even without these barriers, traditional recruitment processes, which heavily rely on educational credentials, can exclude STARs, and employers using automated applicant tracking systems may unintentionally filter out candidates who don't meet specific educational criteria. The status quo of recruitment strategy is broken; even candidates who do have the “right” experience (past experience with similar job titles) aren’t necessarily qualified with the right skills for the job. It is time to move to a skills-based approach, assessing candidates’ true value over their past experiences.
Overcoming these challenges requires a shift in mindset, comprehensive education about the benefits of hiring STARs, and adjustments to recruitment processes to ensure fair consideration of candidates from diverse backgrounds. Employers who embrace the potential of STARs can tap into a rich pool of talent and contribute to building more inclusive and innovative workplaces.
Opportunity@Work's analysis of nearly 900 U.S. occupations reveals that the skills required for low-wage and high-wage jobs often overlap. Many STARs have demonstrated skills for roles with salaries at least 50% higher than their current positions. STARS are highly capable, loyal, and skilled employees. Data shows that individuals with criminal backgrounds even outperformed their counterparts without records in areas such as attendance, policy adherence, and behavioral violations - they were also promoted faster. STARs also bring diverse skills acquired through unconventional paths, contributing to a richer skill mix within the workforce. This diversity can lead to enhanced problem-solving and innovation.
Looking Forward with STARs
As we collectively work towards dismantling the imbalance of the labor market, we envision a future where both STARs and employers can thrive. This future values skills over credentials, creating opportunities for economic mobility and growth, where biases are replaced by inclusivity, and the workforce reflects the diverse skills and experiences of its members. This future is already happening - in 2023, over 45% of employers on LinkedIn utilized skills data explicitly for hiring, marking a 12% increase from the previous year. And now, around 20% of job postings in the United States no longer have specific educational requirements. It's time to be part of this transformative future and discover your next great hire among the skilled and capable STARs.
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