Opportunity@Work Awards $2 Million to Organizations Accelerating Economic Mobility for Workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs)




Jun 25, 2024, 09:00 ET
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National nonprofit's latest grant program recognizes eight training and talent development providers committed to helping STARs access career opportunities in high-growth fields

WASHINGTONJune 25, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- National economic mobility nonprofit Opportunity@Work today announced eight recipients of its Powering STAR Breakthroughs grant program, a first-of-its-kind effort to support organizations that are boosting economic mobility and combatting occupational segregation for workers from who have historically been excluded from high-wage roles. The grantees cover a range of geographic regions and industries, with a shared commitment to connecting workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) – such as community college, military service, or on the job experience, rather than a bachelor's degree – to family-sustaining jobs and careers.

"STARs are in every community across the country, and are overrepresented in populations that have been historically excluded from the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, including women, Black and Hispanic workers, immigrant and English language learner workers, justice-impacted workers, rural workers, and opportunity youth," said Jill Rizika, President & CEO of Towards Employment, one of the program's grantees. "Opportunity@Work is catalyzing a nationwide movement to unlock economic opportunity for STARs — from research, to guidance for employers in both the public and private sectors, and now to grantmaking. We're thrilled to receive this grant and grateful for the uniquely intentional, community-oriented approach that the Opportunity@Work team took throughout the process."

Grantees of the Powering STAR Breakthroughs program were selected from a wide range of organizations based on a clear set of criteria that reflected applicants' commitment to supporting STARs' economic mobility. The organizations chosen represent communities from Los Angeles, California to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Camden, New Jersey, and were selected with extra consideration towards their impact within industries which historically did not have clear accessible career pathways for STARs, such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, technology, skilled trades, tax preparation, and the food service industry. In addition to financial support, Opportunity@Work will also work to amplify grantees' programs, including forging connections with fellow grantees, employers, and the broader workforce development community, reflecting the organization's commitment to elevating and empowering the work of training providers.

Our 2024-2025 Powering STAR Breakthroughs grantees are:

  • Central City Neighborhood Partners, a Los Angeles-based organization that will use its grant funds to provide training and wraparound support services specifically focused on uplifting and empowering Hispanic women STARs in the Volunteer Tax Preparation industry, providing access to upwardly mobile career opportunities for women in a community with a 100% poverty rate.

  • Launch of Philadelphia, which will expand access to apprenticeships as a pathway to high-demand tech sector jobs, with the aim of boosting economic mobility and stability for Black STARs in the Philadelphia metropolitan region.

  • A partnership between Mount Tamalpais College, whose students who are incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Next Chapter, which will provide training and job matching services in the tech industry for Mount Tamalpais College students and alumni, creating pathways to opportunity for STARs who are navigating their reentry from incarceration.

  • Northland Workforce Training Center, which will provide STARs in Buffalo, New York with access to no-cost accelerated and certificate training programs focused on the advanced manufacturing and clean energy industries, bridging the gap between the local workforce and industry needs throughout the region.

  • Propel America, which will provide training and job placement support for STARs in multiple cities across the US who are seeking jobs as medical assistants and sterile processing technicians, among others. This work will further the organization's mission of building a more representative healthcare workforce by focusing on reaching recent high school graduates of color.

  • Towards Employment, which will provide job placement support, career coaching, and wraparound support for STARs in Cleveland neighborhoods most impacted by historic redlining. This work aims to reverse a legacy of inequity by providing support to STARs with criminal records, those with a history of addiction, and/or those who have faced housing instability.

  • Turing School Of Software & Design, which will recruit, train, and graduate a population of STARs for its tech training programs in Denver, as well as offer online programming to reach STARs living in rural areas, to expand access to career pathways in one of Colorado's fastest-growing industries.

"We were hugely impressed by the caliber of the many worthy applications we received, even beyond those selected. Each region and industry in which the winning organizations operate hold their own opportunities for – and obstacles to – STARs' economic mobility. We know that rewiring the U.S. labor market requires best-in-class insights and analytics nationally to support effective action at the local and regional levels. This means elevating the experiences and expertise of organizations like our Powering STAR Breakthroughs grantees and supporting them in their work," said Byron Auguste, CEO & co-founder of Opportunity@Work. "This is a vital step in an ongoing nationwide effort to build a labor market that works for STARs, and for all American workers who face unnecessary barriers to economic mobility."

To learn more about the Powering STAR Breakthroughs program, please visit this link. Due to overwhelming interest from training providers and talent development organizations across the country, Opportunity@Work will explore conducting similar challenges in future years with additional funding partners.

About Opportunity@Work
Opportunity@Work is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to rewire the labor market to enable at least 1 million working adults in America to translate their learning into earning. Opportunity@Work engages with corporate, philanthropic, and workforce partners to directly address the barriers that STARs face, recognize STARs' talent, and eliminate unnecessary degree requirements for open roles. Their Tear the Paper Ceiling campaign with Ad Council brought together a growing coalition of more than 60 corporate and non-profit partners to share hiring insights and launch a national public services advertising campaign to raise awareness of, and support the hiring of STARs. Learn more at www.opportunityatwork.org.

SOURCE Opportunity@Work