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.
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.
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
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.
Higher education’s measurement of student success is in the midst of an evolution. For nearly five decades, success efforts focused on access, then two decades with completion as the horizon for success, and now the focus is extending to student outcomes beyond completion.
Applied connections between education and work are increasingly a part of undergraduate education in the United States.
Two centuries after the first historically Black colleges and universities were founded, the 101 accredited HBCUs in operation today continue to deliver on their legacy of expanding educational opportunity for Black students that leads to successful and fulfilling lives.
As a field, higher education has experienced a continuing evolution in how to measure success. For nearly five decades success efforts were focused on access, followed by the past decade and a half pursuing completion, and the field now has a growing focus on the value of a degree and student outcomes beyond completion.
Strada’s prior research on undergraduate perceptions of the value of their education demonstrates that students value their education most when they receive support to connect their education and career interests.
In the wake of historic pandemic-related enrollment declines, postsecondary institutions have responded by developing and expanding innovative approaches to engaging learners.
The baccalaureate degree remains the surest path to economic mobility, employment stability, and a host of associated social benefits.
Steep declines in undergraduate enrollment during 2020 and 2021 threaten to widen existing equity gaps in college completion and career opportunities.
Nondegree credentials have been growing rapidly for decades. During the COVID-19 economic crisis, interest in nondegree credentials and skills training options was especially high. Questions about their quality and value, however, remain.
The high school classes of 2020 and 2021 have endured massive disruption to their education.
The pandemic has led to a national crisis of widespread disruption to both work and education for millions of adults in the U.S., especially those from historically marginalized groups.
From its onset in early 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has upended life across the world, leading to uncertainty around health, work, finances, education, and a host of other issues.
Over the past 15 years, the number of student loan recipients has increased by 51 percent and the debt associated with those loans has more than doubled.
We asked alumni nationwide who had borrowed money to go to school if their loans were worth it. Strada Education Network and Gallup surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 student loan holders.
Our mission is to improve lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment.
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