YSU partners with Opportunity@Work to match workers/employers

Opportunity @ WorkWith projected skilled labor shortages and employers struggling to fill open roles in Northeast Ohio, Youngstown State University’s Division of Workforce Education and Innovation is partnering with national nonprofit Opportunity@Work to help employers source skilled talent in the region.

The collaboration will utilize YSU’s Talent Marketplace – powered by Opportunity@Work’s Stellarworx platform – to connect local employers with workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs), like community college, military service, training programs, skills bootcamps, and learning on the job — rather than a bachelor’s degree.

STARs currently make up 64 percent of all workers in the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and Ultium Cells is considering individuals that graduate the program for employment.

“It’s our goal to provide an easier way for our regional employers to connect with STARs going through alternative training programs like apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, industry credentials and other workforce training programs,” said Jennifer Oddo, executive director of the YSU Division of Workforce Education and Innovation. “And thanks to General Motors’ community investment in this invaluable work, we can help businesses find the skilled talent they need and support STARs’ access to the roles that will provide them upward mobility.”

This launch marks the fourth U.S. market for Stellarworx, following launches in the Washington, D.C.-metro area, which recently announced a new partnership with the State of Maryland, as well as greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Talent developers in northeast Ohio can onboard their learners into Stellarworx and connect them with area employers committed to skills-based hiring. Opportunity@Work created Stellarworx to offer tools for scaling inclusive hiring, and this new program will help expand opportunities to career pathway roles for STARs and develop new talent pipelines in the region.

“We are thrilled to partner with YSU and help create an ecosystem in northeast Ohio where STARs can translate their learning into earning and access the career pathway jobs they deserve,” said Bridgette Gray, chief customer officer at Opportunity@Work. “Despite their tremendous skills, STARs are far too often excluded from opportunities simply because they lack a bachelor's degree, and with Ultium Cells leading the way, we’re excited to help other employers discover inclusive hiring as a long-term solution to problems like the so-called ‘skills gap.’”

Currently, this pilot is in its early stages, but in the coming months, YSU and Opportunity@Work hope to onboard more talent developers and employers onto the talent marketplace to enable regional STARs hiring at scale. With STARs hiring already underway, Ultium Cells is an active user of the platform.

“We are thrilled to share our vision of an all-electric future, and pioneer opportunities to join our highly technical battery-cell manufacturing team,” said Tom Gallagher, Ultium Cells vice president of Operations. “We believe that talent exists in many places, from high school students to those looking for a new career path. We have hired both, and in various positions such as supervisors, technician leads, and production roles. At Ultium Cells, we recognize skills as a key asset and value a diverse workforce; the technical components can be taught through on the job training. As we enter into a new era of manufacturing and sustainability, our partnership with YSU and Opportunity@Work continues to play a key role in helping identify and skill the workforce we need and envision. It’s an all in approach.”

According to insights from Opportunity@Work, there are more than 70 million STARs in the United States today, and over the last 20 years, STARs were displaced from 7.4 million middle- and high-wage jobs. Biases against STARs – which include erroneously identifying them as low-skill – has also had a negative impact on diversity in the workforce, as 61 percent of black workers, 55 percent of Hispanic workers, and 66 percent of rural workers of all races are STARs. And as employers in today’s labor market seek to diversify, “no DEIB effort will be successful without attention to STARs,” according to the nonprofit.

“After being out of work for about a year, I am relieved to be employed full-time with benefits by Ultium Cells,” said Jackie Duncan, production operator at Ultium Cells. "It is an exciting opportunity to be hired by a company with so much possibility for advancement and potential for growth.  I am also enjoying working with a young and energetic workforce that is so excited about working at Ultium Cells and the future of growth potential.”

Employers and talent developers in the region interested in learning more can visit www.ysu.edu/workforce/talentmarketplace for more information.