As the U.S. economy reopens, many Americans are reassessing their priorities and relationship to work. Workers are realizing their potential and seeking better wages and opportunities, particularly those who held low-wage jobs before the pandemic. Many workers, however, may not have the resources to pursue additional education and training on their own. At the same time, some employers are shifting to inclusive hiring practices that focus on job seekers’ skills and competencies rather than degrees and credentials, which can screen out qualified candidates.

WorkRise and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia explored evidence-based tools and resources designed to create pathways for economic mobility and opportunity for workers historically excluded from good jobs at this event. Researchers and practitioners from WorkRise’s partner institutions considered how these tools and resources support workers’ efforts to leverage their existing skills and past work experience to signal their value in the labor market and employers’ growing interest in skills-based hiring. We highlighted insights that enable workforce intermediaries and decision makers to facilitate occupational transitions and stronger matches between local talent and demand. We also identified gaps in knowledge about effective interventions for promoting mobility in the labor market.

Access related material, including tools, research, and a recording of the event.

Program Details

Event moderator: Ashley Putnam, Director, Economic Growth & Mobility Project, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Opening remarks: Todd Greene, Executive Director, WorkRise and Institute Fellow, Urban Institute

Papia Debroy is senior vice president of insights at Opportunity@Work, a social enterprise with the mission of rewiring the U.S. labor market so that workers who are skilled through alternative routes (STARs) but lack four-year degrees can reach their full potential. Debroy will share insights on an estimated 71 million STARs in the labor market and what we know about their skills, the barriers to wage growth and economic mobility in the labor market, and racial and gender disparities created by unequal access to opportunity. This research will also shed light on higher-wage jobs with skill requirements that overlap with skills STARs already have. In addition, Debroy will share information about stellarworx, Opportunity@Work's new talent marketplace that connects employers with training providers and STARs.

Marcela Escobari is a senior fellow in global economy and development at the Brooking Institution. Escobari has spent the past several years analyzing occupational trends and transitions in the labor market. Her research identifies pathways for workers out of low-wage, low-opportunity occupations into more resilient ones. She will share insights from new research on mobility gaps in the labor market and network analysis of labor market transitions of real workers. She will also demonstrate the Mobility Pathways tool, a resource that ranks occupations with a "mobility index" and identifies realistic transitions into higher-wage work.

Debbie Hughes is interim director of the Rework America Alliance, an initiative of the Markle Foundation. Hughes will present new findings on unlocking the value of job seekers' prior work histories, experiences, and skill sets. Building on a taxonomy of origin, gateway, and target occupations, this research offers action steps policymakers, employers, and workforce intermediaries can take to make gateway jobs — offering a springboard to greater economic advancement — more accessible to low-wage workers. Hughes will also present the Job Progression Tool, which can help career coaches and worker-serving organizations connect job seekers to good jobs that align with their work experience.

Keith Wardrip is the community development research manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Wardrip will present the Occupational Mobility Explorer, an interactive tool designed to compare skill sets and wages between lower-wage and higher-wage occupations based on an analysis of job advertisements in the 33 largest metro areas in the United States. The research behind the tool finds transitions to higher-paying occupations could increase average annual wages by 49 percent. The tool is aimed at workforce development practitioners, community colleges, and employers to guide recruitment and hiring practices as millions of job seekers return to the post-COVID labor market.