Skills Based Hiring

Landscape for STARs

Employers today say there’s a talent shortage – but what if they’re just not looking in the right places? More than 70 million workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) – such as community college, military service, boot camps, and workforce training programs, rather than a bachelor’s degree – are being overlooked today. Nearly half of these STARs have the skills to thrive in higher-wage, in-demand roles. Still, they’re held back by the paper ceiling – the invisible barrier that comes at every turn for workers without a bachelor’s degree –  which limits their upward mobility and makes it harder for employers to fill their open roles.

STARs represent the full diversity of our workforce. They are:

  • 62% of Black workers
  • 55% of Hispanic workers
  • 53% of White workers
  • 48% of Female workers
  • 31% of AAPI workers
  • 66% of Rural workers
  • 61% of Veterans

To ensure everyone has access to a good job and the opportunity to achieve greater economic mobility, we must intentionally include STARs in our hiring.

Scope of Project

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) launched a partnership pilot program that focuses on increasing the effectiveness of skills-based hiring. The partnership includes ACCT, Opportunity@Work, the State of Maryland, select employers in identified sectors, and four pilot Maryland Community Colleges. This pilot will demonstrate the effectiveness of skills-based hiring by designing and/or enhancing existing training programs at four community colleges around the essential skills most needed for specific occupations, creating a pipeline of skilled and career-ready job candidates for open roles.

The State of Maryland employs more than 38,000 individuals. The Department of Budget and Management estimates that more than half of those jobs can substitute relevant experience, training, and community college education for a bachelor's degree. In addition, thousands of vacant state government jobs no longer require a bachelor's degree. Recently, in partnership with Opportunity@Work, Governor Hogan launched a multi-pronged, first-in-the-nation effort to formally eliminate the four-year college degree requirement from thousands of state jobs, opening equitable access for a commonly underestimated talent category known as “STARs.”

Community colleges – a high-quality option for sourcing skilled and career-ready candidates - already play an important role in workforce development across the country. They enroll nearly half of all college learners and are already a gateway to higher education and skill building for learners who would not otherwise have access. Community colleges are also tied to their local communities and contribute to their regions' growth and success through various avenues, including workforce development, growth of the labor force, community service, local and regional economic development, and technical and vocational training. Baked into the mission and structure of community colleges is their capacity to prepare learners for the workforce, which makes them an ideal partner for expanding skills-based hiring. Finally, we know that community college learners may face multiple barriers that can impact their ability to be successful in the classroom. Community colleges have an infrastructure to support learners directly and/or have established partnerships with local organizations that provide additional support services (e.g., tutoring services, career development, essential skills training, and connections to social services programs for support around childcare and transportation needs).


Serving as a BridgeServing as a Bridge: Community College Skills-Based Hiring Playbook - August 2024

Funding made possible by:

Lumina Foundation

Contact For More Information

For questions about the Skills-Based Hiring initiative contact:

Sean Robins, Project Associate, Center for Policy and Practice