September 22, 2022 – Future of Work

How the SkillUp Coalition Supported More than One Million Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was an urgent need to help Americans upskill and reskill. The Charles Koch Foundation joined the SkillUp Coalition in July 2020 to connect workers with learning opportunities that equip them with new skills and secure quality, fulfilling in-demand jobs. 

SkillUp recently celebrated an important milestone: one million workers supported. These adult learners have received scholarships, worked with regional educational or career advancement partners, or accessed SkillUp’s web platform, which was built to help workers unlock pathways for career growth. 

To help find the right path for each person, SkillUp asks learners about themselves — what environments they are comfortable in, and what work they enjoy, for example — and then provides information about high-growth careers and the training learners will need to find work that they will love. 

Workers are presented with career options vetted for offering sustainable wages and benefits in in-demand fields with opportunities for advancement. Each job can be secured with less than 12 months of training; many roles are fully remote. Learners also have access to catalog of more than 400 quality training programs that help them connect to low-cost, short-term learning opportunities. Programs include medical, technical, business, skilled trades, and logistics and manufacturing. Many courses are available at no cost and can be completed in as few as three months. 

Additional resources available to SkillUp learners include group career coaching, digital skills training, housing, health and wellness support, and even rideshare assistance.

Nearly 30,000 participants have been directly connected to jobs through SkillUp, and SkillUp training is responsible for putting more than $750 million into the pockets of the people it has supported. Through its SkillUp Together Fund, the organization also has provided more than $1.8 million in direct scholarships to learners. Seventy percent of SkillUp participants are people of color, 80 percent had annual incomes totaling less than $40,000 before they began their SkillUp journey, and 72 percent were working for an hourly wage.

“We all win when we connect individual learners to the training they need to find fulfilling work,” said CKF Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “SkillUp was created to help workers affected by the economic disruption surrounding COVID-19. That disruption has dissipated, but there are now millions of jobs that need to be filled — and millions of people who want to learn new skills that reflect their unique passions and abilities. We’re eager to support SkillUp as it continues to help learners find their purpose.”

SkillUp will build on the success of the last two years by:

  • Offering more locally relevant employment and training choices to workers 
  • Piloting one-on-one career counseling through a mix of tech-delivered and direct-service worker supports
  • Launching a SkillUp Employer Network to better connect workers, training providers, and employers 
  • Conducting a groundbreaking study of worker learnings that will provide a dynamic view of workers’ and job seekers’ journeys over time
  • Bringing select micro-pathways and two or more stackable credentials into the SkillUp platform to increase community college representation 
  • Continuing to invest in product design and functionality that provide comprehensive, guided support to job-seekers

Read more about SkillUp’s impact and hear the stories of participants.