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Inclusion

Finding Hidden Talent

Client
Opportunity@Work
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A social enterprise rewires America’s labor market through inclusive design.

It’s quitting time. Roughly 47 million people voluntarily left their jobs in 2021, leaving companies struggling to find talent. And that’s a hard problem to solve, because hiring in America is broken: Too many opportunities are denied to skilled candidates because they lack a bachelor’s degree. Employers rely on degrees as the main qualifiers for jobs, but historically the university path has been blocked for many. This opportunity gap is turning America into a two-class society. To break that pattern, Opportunity@Work convened a powerful network of partners and asked IDEO to help bring visibility to this overlooked talent pool.

Progress

HELP WANTED, DEGREE OPTIONAL

Thousands of state jobs in Maryland no longer require a four-year college degree

Choosing a skills-based approach

The White House is adjusting educational requirements for I.T. professionals in favor of a skills-based approach
Portraits of two women and two men
Posters advertising the Opportunity at Work program

83% of HR professionals said they had difficulty finding suitable candidates in the past 12 months.

62% of Black people, 55% of Hispanic people, and 50% of non-Hispanic white people have become skilled through alternative routes, such as community college, workforce training, boot camps, certification programs, military service, or job experience.

Over the past 40 years, inflation-adjusted wages have increased 8% for college graduates with a bachelor’s degree while decreasing by 15% for people with only a high school degree.

American businesses are on notice: To be competitive in today’s market, you must diversify your workforce.

One way to widen the talent pool is to pay closer attention to people who have acquired their skills through alternative routes. Millions of Americans learn on the job, in community colleges, at boot camps, or through life experience. According to Opportunity@Work, more than 70 million Americans are overlooked because of degree requirements. Despite their abilities, these “STARs” (those who are skilled through alternative routes) find themselves stuck in jobs for which they’re overqualified and underpaid.

Opportunity@Work, an innovative social enterprise, reached out to IDEO to help collaborate with companies, talent developers, and STARs seeking career growth. To make this overlooked talent pool more visible, we created a campaign and video to rally companies. We also designed a data dashboard to help regional employer networks identify qualified talent and potential partnerships with skill-building programs. And to provide STARs with direct support, we scaffolded the job-seeking experience, focusing on key moments like the interview process.

It’s time for businesses searching for talent to open their eyes, look to the STARs, and see what they’re missing.

Photographic montage of a range of people
“There isn’t a company in the U.S. right now that isn’t trying to improve diversity. There also isn’t a company that can meet its talent needs with people with bachelor’s degrees.”
Gayatri Agnew

Gayatri Agnew

Senior Director and Head of Accessibility Center of Excellence, Walmart.org

Black man typing on a keyboard in a warehouse
Screenshot of STARs website

Thank you

There were several important partners in this work, including:

  • Cognizant Foundation
  • Gates Foundation
  • Google.org
  • Kapor Center
  • Per Scholas
  • Walmart.org
  • Workday Foundation

We also want to recognize and thank the various STARs who joined our design process.

Explore More Work

Inclusive hiring can’t wait

Redesigning systems can’t wait

Expanding access can’t wait

Inclusive hiring can’t wait

Redesigning systems can’t wait

Expanding access can’t wait

Expanding access can’t wait

Inclusive hiring can’t wait

Redesigning systems can’t wait

Expanding access can’t wait

Inclusive hiring can’t wait

Redesigning systems can’t wait

Expanding access can’t wait

Expanding access can’t wait

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