Meeting difficulty and partner problems and communication with 3D illustration elements.  Hard to find work or a college education for working adults

There’s a New Term for “Stranded Workers,” But It’s the Same Old Problem

In California, there are over 6 million adults who are un-or-underemployed and feel stuck. We call them “stranded workers,” which is poetic. The United Way has recently come up with its own term, which is more technical: ALICE, an acronym for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.”

Whichever term you use, the problem is a serious one.  

“As cashiers, waiters, child care providers, and other members of our essential workforce, ALICE earns just above the Federal Poverty Level but less than what it costs to make ends meet,” the United Way writes.

People from all walks of life, everywhere in the country, can fall into this condition, but Business Insider notes that traditionally disenfranchised populations, especially people of color, the elderly, and single parents, are most likely to be ALICE. It’s not about their work ethic, it’s about their opportunities.

“Just over half of ALICE workers put in full-time hours, and another 13% of ALICE who are not working are looking for work,” they report. “That speaks to the conundrum the ALICE population faces: They are, for the most part, doing the things they’re supposed to be doing to achieve financial stability. But, even so, they’re flailing.”

One potential solution is to increase the social safety net, expanding anti-poverty programs to cover more people. That’s a good idea. But it’s also vital to understand that stranded workers and people who are ALICE don’t have to be trapped: They’re often very hard workers, with lots of talent, who just don’t have access to the opportunities to get ahead. 

Research conducted by organizations like Calbright College and Opportunity@Work shows that when stranded workers are given the right skills they can thrive in upwardly mobile jobs in tech and other industries. When we make the education they need accessible, and the opportunities they want available – that’s often all they need. 

Calbright College is one way to make those skills and opportunities accessible. It’s a free online community college that is flexibly paced and uses a Competency-Based Education model. It allows students to have an education that fits their lives, rather than bending their lives out of shape to get an education. It focuses on programs that students can complete quickly, on their own timelines, so that students can be ready for a new career faster than traditional colleges allow. It’s accessible to everyone and takes the risk out of going to college

And it works. Over 61% of Calbright students say they are satisfied with the progress Calbright helped them make towards their professional and personal goals. 

Whatever term you use for the problem, it can be solved: We just need to make the solutions accessible to everyone.

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