Coalition seeks to lift low-income workers out of the economic crisis

A new group is helping low-income workers boost their skill levels during the pandemic.
By: | July 15, 2020 • 3 min read

HR leaders tasked with managing talent pipelines face serious challenges during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to low-income workforces.

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A recent McKinsey report, in fact, says that up to one-third of U.S. jobs may be vulnerable as a result of COVID-19, and more than 80% of those are held by low-income workers.

For both HR leaders and workers struggling to get back into the labor force, help is on the way. A recently launched nonprofit organization, the SkillUp Coalition, was designed to address the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable communities in the American workforce, according to Josh Jarrett, executive chairman of the coalition.

“With unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression, frontline workers are trying to reorient themselves in the face of an uncertain future.”

Jarrett explains that the coalition will leverage its partners’ strengths to provide new pathways to career opportunities for the more than 40 million Americans who have filed for unemployment in the last several months. The initiative includes a team of training and education providers, employers, technology companies, job-readiness nonprofits and philanthropic organizations. Among other things, it will enable partners to share best practices, collaborate on shared challenges and participate in public engagement campaigns that help COVID-affected workers launch a new stage in their careers, Jarrett says. Core operating partners include Guild Education, JFF, Opportunity@Work and Strada Education Network.

“With unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression, frontline workers are trying to reorient themselves in the face of an uncertain future, and America needs an upskilling solution that meets the urgency and scale that this crisis demands,” Jarrett said in a statement. “We’re prepared to provide this solution by bringing together the best in training and education, employment, technology and the nonprofit sector to reskill and re-employ frontline workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

SkillUp helps frontline workers select and prepare for career paths that align with the economy of the future. Its initial target sectors include healthcare, technology and business, with plans to expand into other fast-growing sectors as the needs of employers continue to evolve.

SkillUp deploys a three-phase approach:

Additionally, to help workers navigate the financial and emotional challenges that can prevent them from completing their training and finding work, the SkillUp experience includes connections to financial support and coaching resources.

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“At this pivotal moment for our country, we have the rare opportunity to create a more inclusive and equitable economy for all workers,” says Byron Auguste, CEO and co-founder of Opportunity@Work. That should include the 71 million who don’t have a college degree but are “skilled through alternative routes–or STARs,” he said.

“STARs show up every day to work, learn and contribute in essential ways, and it’s time for our institutions to show up for them.”

Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.