New Coalition Aims to Boost Economic Mobility for America’s Displaced Frontline Workforce

The SkillUp Coalition brings together leading training and education providers, employers, technology companies, job readiness nonprofits, and philanthropies to upskill workers into in-demand jobs at scale

American workers who have been laid off or furloughed in the wake of COVID-19 have a new resource to access training and employment opportunities. A collaborative team of training and education providers, employers, technology companies, job readiness nonprofits, and philanthropies launched an ambitious initiative today. The nonprofit SkillUp Coalition provides displaced frontline workers with opportunities to build new skills that help them secure in-demand jobs with promising career paths. The Coalition also enables partners to share best practices and collaborate on shared challenges to help COVID-affected workers launch a prosperous new stage in their careers. By leveraging existing technology and its network of Coalition members, including Arena Analytics, Guild Education, JFF, Opportunity@Work, and Strada Education Network, SkillUp’s platform is ready for frontline workers to begin using, starting here.

According to a recent McKinsey report, up to one-third of U.S. jobs may be vulnerable as a result of COVID-19, and more than eighty percent of those are held by low-income workers. Designed to address the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable communities in the American workforce, the SkillUp Coalition will leverage 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. SkillUp focuses on supporting displaced workers earning less than $40,000 a year, a population that is disproportionately people of color, women, and individuals who have not earned a four-year college degree.

“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,” said Josh Jarrett, Executive Chairman of the SkillUp Coalition. “In launching the SkillUp Coalition, we’re prepared to provide this solution by bringing together the best in training and education, employment, technology, and the nonprofit sector to re-skill and re-employ frontline workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“We are thrilled to contribute to an initiative that shares our vision for creating affordable and effective career pathways for people,” said Michael Rosenbaum, Founder & CEO of Arena. “For too long we have all struggled with informational asymmetry: we the job-seekers do not know which careers best suit us or which industries will carry us forward into the future, and we the employers do not know which job candidates will perform best in roles specific to our locations, departments, shifts. We now have the data analysis to help people on both sides of this transaction succeed, and this coalition has the resources and full spectrum of support systems to make it happen at scale.”

The SkillUp Coalition’s training and education partners providing upskilling opportunities to workers include Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), University of Denver, eCornell, edX, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), Brandman University, Wilmington University, Penn Foster, Coursera, SV Academy, General Assembly, Climb Hire, Year Up, Merit America, Per Scholas, and Pathstream. Technology companies include Guild Education, which is contributing its outplacement tech platform, Next Chapter, as well as OnwardUS, pymetrics, and Arena. Employer partners include Next Chapter employers and others that are committed to upskilling and hiring in fast-growing sectors like healthcare, technology, and business, including Walmart, Gainsight, Paschall Truck Lines, TTEC, CoolSys, and Unity Technologies. The Coalition also consists of job readiness nonprofits and advocacy groups to support some of the most vulnerable populations impacted by this pandemic, including Opportunity@Work, JFF, Strada Education Network, and The Project on Workforce at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center. The SkillUp Coalition will also collaborate with the Education Quality Outcomes Standards board (EQOS) to ensure high-quality programming for all workers. Philanthropic partners of the Coalition include the Charles Koch Foundation, Strada Education Network, and others.

SkillUp helps frontline workers select and prepare for career paths that align with the economy of the future. The Coalition’s 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 uses a three-phase approach:

  • Career navigation: Provide frontline workers with access to tools and coaching resources to guide them in choosing a career path aligned with rapidly changing labor market needs.
  • Training programs: Support learners in finding programs that match their career goals and provide financial support to cover tuition costs.
  • Job opportunities: Identify opportunities that match workers’ career aspirations and ensure they’re prepared to land a role.

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 supports and coaching resources.