New Brief Explores California’s Stranded Worker Population

Today California Competes released its new brief, Wanted: Social and Economic Mobility for California’s Stranded Workers. The publication begins to build a profile of the millions of adults who are seeking job advancement in California without a college degree. To learn more about California’s 2.5 million stranded workers, we examined population characteristics statewide and regionally, looking into their employment status, occupations, family structures, and the kinds of economic hardships they face. Among various economic and social indicators, we found half of women who are stranded workers have dependent children, and 25% of stranded workers don’t have health insurance.

If implemented with care, the proposal to expand online learning through the California Community Colleges offers a creative expansion of college options and an innovative educational solution to a group of workers with limited opportunities for economic and social mobility.

“Embracing innovative strategies that could help California parents qualify for better-paying jobs that offer health insurance should be a no-brainer for policymakers,” said California Competes Executive Director Lande Ajose. "If implemented with care, the proposal to expand online learning through the California Community Colleges offers a creative expansion of college options and an innovative educational solution to a group of workers with limited opportunities for economic and social mobility." Other key findings about stranded workers include:


  • 54% work full-time;
  • Nearly half (49%) are Latino; and
  • More than half (58%) earn less than $25,000 annually.
The successful implementation of an online community college should consider how programs provide skilled credentials that support both vertical and horizontal mobility, so workers can use online training to enter higher-earning fields in addition to finding pathways for job advancement in their current fields. The brief provides specific examples of how the online community college could set up working learners for success whether they are seeking a promotion or an entirely new career.

Download the full brief.

Download the stranded worker snapshot.

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