23 Looking for workers? Reach for the STARs

Looking for workers? One potential source is STARs – persons who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes. Those routes can include:

  • Life experience,
  • On the job training,
  • Military,
  • Peace Corps / Americorps,
  • Community college, and
  • Hobbies.

When I was the IT Director for a manufacturing company, I transferred a shop floor foreman to become a programmer – he had taken a night course in programming and loved it. He was passionate about programming, not the shop floor. Yes, he had a decent-sized learning curve, and he was worth it.

Of the list above, life experience is the most prevalent. It also requires the most creative thinking to see how the skills can translate to a specific position. Consider a stay-at-home parent of 2 preschoolers. The parent has many skills which are directly applicable to the workplace:

  • Working under pressure,
  • Responding to competing demands,
  • Planning and scheduling,
  • Adapting to ever-changing circumstances,
  • Multi-tasking,
  • Patience, and
  • Expressing their ideas in terms the “customer” (their preschoolers) can understand)

What would it take for your organization to hire a stay-at-home parent? Some obvious alternatives:

  1. Provide on-site child care,
  2. Allow flex hours, and/or
  3. Structure your work for part-time employees. This might include job-sharing.

If some of your positions require a degree, is that degree really necessary? Or is that requirement preventing otherwise-qualified persons from joining your organization?

An added benefit: using STARs can potentially help you increase the diversity of your workforce. According to the New York Times, 62% of Black people, 55% of Hispanic people, and 50% of non-Hispanic white people have become skilled through alternative routes.


Gary Langenwalter


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