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Workforce Development Program to Reduce the Skills Gap in Orange County

UpSkill OC: An innovative, collaborative approach to bridging the skills gap for livable wage jobs in Orange County. Find out how to get involved.

UpSkill OC is an Orange County United Way program providing recently homeless and housing insecure OC residents with a path to sustainable employment in middle-skill careers, particularly in the IT and Healthcare industries. Through job training programs, coaching and community-based support services, UpSkill OC is bridging the gap between the growing number of job openings and newly trained candidates ready to fill these middle-skill jobs—jobs that will contribute greatly to their overall family stability.

Our Ultimate Goal

United Way’s UpSkill OC workforce development program supports underemployed and unemployed adults as they move from unemployment or low-wage positions into long-term, livable wage, middle-skill occupations. These jobs require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

UpSkill OC directly connects qualified candidates to training, support and middle-skill jobs by partnering with local nonprofits and the business community. The program ensures a strong job pipeline that matches the needs of the employer with trained candidates. By focusing on two of the largest middle-skill job sectors in Orange County in particular—healthcare and information technology—UpSkill OC reduces the gap between the number of job openings and the number individuals ready to fill those positions.

Orange County United Way works directly with our Rapid Re-Housing partners – Families Forward, Mercy House, Project Hope Alliance and Serving People in Need – to identify potential UpSkill OC program participants. If you’re in need of immediate employment assistance, please contact 2-1-1 OC.


Our Roadmap for Success

  • Recently re-housed individuals are provided with the support and training needed to secure long-term, financially sustainable employment.
  • Communication among nonprofit partners is opened, allowing for efficient, streamlined delivery of services to match the expanding capacity of employers.
  • Training programs are developed in partnership with nonprofits and employers to ensure alignment with the greatest corporate need.
  • Underemployed and unemployed adults are hired—and are able to retain better paying jobs!

Levels of Support

UpSkill OC helps individuals navigate their employment journey from unemployment or low-wage positions to secure, middle-skill careers. Our partners provide different levels of engagement and support, each based on need and capacity.

  • Individualized assessment of participants with commitment plan.
  • Personalized workforce development coaching.
  • Individualized assessment of participants with commitment plan.
  • Personalized workforce development coaching.

UpSkill OC: The Correlation Between Housing and Income

In Orange County, data shows that an entry-level job simply does not pay enough for an individual or their family to secure a single family home. In fact, a wage earner must make at least $27.62 an hour to afford even a median-priced one-bedroom apartment. UpSkill OC addresses this challenge by supporting job seekers in attaining living wage jobs that pay at least $65,000 -$80,000 annually.

Income & Housing Connection

Median price for a Single Family Home in OC

Income needed to qualify for an entry-level home
Hourly wage needed to afford a median-priced one-bedroom apartment

In Reality

  • 68% of OC jobs that pay less than $27.62
  • $39,769/year Median annual salary or $19.12/hour wage in OC for ALL occupations

The Burgeoning Need for Middle-Skill Employees

As middle-skill job openings continue to grow in Orange County, employers are challenged at finding qualified candidates. UpSkill OC directly addresses this issue by supporting customized training and workforce development services that align middle-skill occupations directly with a businesses’ needs.

Middle-skill job openings in Orange County per year over the next decade
Middle-skill job growth. Faster than overall county employment growth.
1/4 of all middle-skill jobs are in healthcare and information technology


  • 45% of HR managers report difficulty finding qualified candidates for open positions
  • 68% of employers believe recent graduates are not ready for work
  • 45% of US employers cite lack of skills as the main reason for entry-level vacancies

Our Focus: Healthcare & IT Jobs

During our pilot year, UpSkill OC is focused on two specific industries that represent a significant number of middle-skill job occupations in Orange County, as well as cross-cutting businesses that provide a significant number of middle-skill positions.

Information Technology Jobs

  • Information technology (IT) is one of the largest cross-cutting sectors in the labor market.
  • Levels of compensation are frequently far higher than the median level, even within skills occupations. The median salary is roughly $67,000.
  • Most Orange County IT occupations will experience significant growth, making this a prime industry to invest in and foster now.
  • Current job openings compared to the number of degrees conferred in the area of IT indicates more employer demand for talent than is currently being supplied by traditional institutions.

Examples of Middle-Skill Job Occupations in IT

Healthcare Jobs

As a result of demographic and social change in OC, particularly due to an aging society, healthcare is a rapidly growing sector and is expected to outpace the rest of the labor market.
  • Middle-skill openings in healthcare have increased by slightly over 56% from 2014 to 2017. 2016 and 2017 have seen a steady number of openings at around 22,000.
  • 1 out of 10 workers in Orange County is employed in the healthcare sector.
  • There are growing connections between healthcare and information technology, creating unique middle-skill jobs. These will need tailored training that transforms with industry.
  • Outside of registered nurses, most educational requirements are below abachelor’s degree.

Examples of Middle-Skill Job Occupations in Healthcare

Get Involved

Interested in becoming a partner business in UpSkill OC? We are looking for:
  • Active, engaged businesses with a progressive approach to hiring
  • Businesses with a significant number of middle-skill positions that have clear upward mobility career paths
  • Businesses that are struggling to find qualified candidates and are ready and willing to take the lead in training!

Contact us for more information via email or 949.263.6129

Three Levels of Business Engagement

Business Leader

  • Develop a pathway and “career profile” for middle-skill jobs

  • Dedicate a staff member to participate in UpSkill OC activities and quarterly Advisory Council meetings

  • Allow a trained and qualified middle-skill employee to compete for a middle-skill job

  • Be an UpSkill OC Ambassador

Business Partner

  • Provide industry recommendations and insights

  • Provide on-site job tours, speakers and mock interviews and participate in quarterly Advisory Council meetings

  • Interest in allowing a trained and qualified middle-skill employee to compete for a middle-skill job

  • Be an UpSkill OC Ambassador

Business Advisor

  • Serve as a trusted advisor

  • Attend quarterly Advisory Council meetings

  • Provide input on hiring needs, skills and competencies

  • UpSkill OC Ambassador

Our Dedicated Partners

Rapid Re-Housing Partners

Our Rapid Re-Housing Partners work every day with individuals who have recently experienced homelessness or housing insecurity. These hard-working individuals are ready to secure a career that enables them to provide a stable home for themselves and their families. Using a customized assessment tool, our Rapid Re-Housing partners identify prospective candidates for UpSkill OC and recommend these individuals to UpSkill OC’s Workforce Navigator. Our Rapid Re-Housing Partners:

  • Families Forward
  • Mercy House
  • Project Hope Alliance
  • Serving People in Need

Workforce Navigator Partner

Our Workforce Navigator plays a key role in aligning the needs of the IT or Healthcare job seeker with the needs of our business partners. The Workforce Navigator identifies the required training along with the success factors as defined by the business partner. Each job candidate is then provided with the customized employee training programs they need (either internal or external) to prepare them for success in a middle-skill occupation with one of our partner businesses. Big thank you to our partner:

  • WHW

Business Partners

Our valuable, dedicated business partners help UpSkill OC stay relevant and industry-aligned, as well as are ready to hire our newly trained UpSkill OC candidates! Thank you to the businesses supporting our work:

Business Training Partner


Business Leaders

  • Bio-Rad
  • College Hospital Costa Mesa
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Orange County Transportation Authority
  • Reborn Cabinets
Business Advisors

  • Automobile Club of Southern California
  • Compunet Integrated Solutions, Inc.
  • Echo Media Group
  • Eaton Aerospace
  • Cybersecurity & Cost Management Group
  • IMRI
  • Wells Fargo

Need More Information?

Thanks for your interest! Here are two easy ways to receive more info about UpSkill OC:

Contact us for more information via email or 949.263.6129

Or download:

If you or someone you know would like more information about applying for the UpSkill OC workforce development program, email UpSkill_OC@UnitedWayOC.org.

Ready to Join UpSkill OC?

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