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California's online community college is partnering with Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit aimed at fixing the opportunity gap, to connect students with employers hiring for specific skills.

The initiative is aimed at students who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes, or STARs, defined as adults who graduated high school and have skills but no four-year degree. Some enrolled in college in the past but didn't complete the program, and others have certificates or two-year degrees or were taught skills on the job or in military service.

The partnership aims to help these Californians build skills in online programs that are relevant for in-demand jobs and then connect them to employers who are hiring for middle- to high-wage positions, according to a news release.

California is home to about eight million people who are considered STARs, and they are now the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Those with only a high school diploma or some college have unemployment rates of 15 percent or higher, according to the release, while unemployment for those with bachelor's degrees remains in the single digits.

“Calbright is built to serve Californians who are disconnected from traditional higher education, offering skills-based training that best positions students for career advancement and wage gain,” Ajita Menon, president of Calbright College, said in the release. “We're focused on finding solutions to the mismatch between employers and education -- even more so now considering the current crisis' staggering economic fallout. Opportunity@Work and their new marketplace for STARs can connect our certified students with hiring managers, which will in turn create real economic improvement for people stuck in low-paying work or unemployed due to COVID-19. Together, we will identify new opportunities for in-demand program development, and ensure that workers will be valued based on the skills they have -- not the degrees they don’t.”