On-ramps to Good Jobs

Fueling Innovation for the Learning Ecosystem of the Future

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Our current education and training system is already lagging and failing too many unemployed and underemployed Americans. We need better solutions for our most vulnerable citizens. Building a learning ecosystem that connect 44 million working-class Americans to good jobs and careers is the fundamental challenge our country faces as we prepare for the future of work.


In this report, Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Entangled Solutions examine the opportunities to scale innovative on-ramps.

Key Findings


In spite of a healthy labor market, there are still 44 million working-age adults in America without a college degree who aren’t earning a living wage.


In the future of work, these working-class adults are most at risk of losing their jobs to automation and their skills becoming obsolete.


The vast majority of our resources, whether it’s public funding or venture capital, is directed toward solutions that serve well-educated Americans; few people are thinking about how to reimagine our learning ecosystem to better serve the 44 million working-class adults.


Which solutions work? One set of highly successful models at moving working-class adults from underemployment into promising career pathways is a nascent market of what we call “on-ramps to good jobs”, programs that boast job placement rates higher than 80% and earnings increases above 200%.


On-ramps to good jobs currently only serve about 100,000 adults. To tackle the problem at scale, we need to reform on-ramps so that they are positioned to grow; reform alternative learning programs utilizing on-ramps’ best practices; and invest in new, innovative solutions designed to serve working-class adults.

By shining a spotlight on what works, as well as identifying barriers to growth, we hope to spark a dialogue—particularly within the social impact investing space—about how to scale more robust and creative on-ramps to launch a larger portion of the 44 million working-class adults in America toward good and better jobs.


Together, we can:

Scale strategies and programs that work. Philanthropists, funders, and social entrepreneurs can invest in these models, build better business cases, or develop innovative approaches that address the barriers to scale that on-ramps face. With an ecosystem approach, more partners can help on-ramps more clearly demonstrate their value and efficacy, so that others can accelerate their learning and develop even more on-ramps. There is also a need to showcase more employers that view on-ramps as goodwill matched with better business practices.

Build an infrastructure for growth. On-ramps are proven models that other groups can leverage. Workforce investment boards and learning providers, such as community and technical colleges, which serve large populations of adult learners, can partner with on-ramps to deliver learning content or augment training, wraparound, or placement services. Or more directly, they can develop their own on-ramp programs.

Demystify and incentivize. Policymakers and funders can change the narrative about hiring nontraditional talent pools by incentivizing more employers to partner with innovative, nontraditional programs and attract more entrepreneurs to design new models to target the adults who are at serious risk of being left behind.

Authors and Contributors

Michelle R. Weise, Ph. D.

Author Long Life Learning

Andrew Hanson

Director of Research
Strada Education Network

Allison Salisbury

Entangled Solutions

Kathy Qu

Engagement Manager
Entangled Solutions

Strada Institute advances our understanding of the changing nature of work, so that we can design and create the learning ecosystem of the future.

We work across boundaries to harvest insights and unlock the potential of the people and organizations poised to accelerate innovation and foster equity in education.


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