Reach for the STARs

Our February musings have encouraged looking beyond your own environment — whether a groundhog emerging to see his shadow, imagining beyond deep snow drifts to the intricate physics of a single flake, and now urging you to gaze at STARs …

STARs is an acronym for Skilled Through Alternative Routes.

The Burning Glass Institute recently published The Emerging Degree Reset. While employers are finally understanding that eliminating the degree requirement for some of their jobs will give them access to a broader labor pool, there will be a burden as well: 

“A reset requires employers to be more articulate about the skills they require for the job”

Article after article on this topic concedes that employers have used the degree requirement as a proxy for the competencies that they assume a college degree imparts, versus articulating or probing for those behaviors in the interview process.

How many more workers?

In a recent story on Marketplace, Papia Debroy, who leads research at the nonprofit Opportunity@Work said:

“There are more than 70 million workers in our U.S. labor force today who are skilled through alternative routes — through community college, through military service. Most often they’re learning on the job…”

If you’re wondering what sort of employers might be looking for STARs, the piece interviews Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America, who is an advocate.  

“The assumption has always been, ‘I need to look for people that have a technical background, and then the easier thing to teach is the soft skills,’” “It’s easier to teach them the technology, and they already have amazing skills for doing client-customer interaction,” Etheredge said.

If you’ve ever seen a detailed image depicting the crystal structure of a snowflake, it didn’t come from a college graduate.  Those photos taken under a microscope in the bitter cold were taken by a farmer nicknamed Snowflake Bentley who had all the competencies like curiosity, initiative, and determination – but lacked the technical tool to capture the images.  Once armed with that technology, the sky was his limit, and his laboratory.

Kate Evert

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