This Installation at CES Tears Into Degree Discrimination

Ogilvy aims to value the alternative routes workers take to hone skills


For a long time, a degree was mandatory for most professional careers. But a college education isn’t the only way to learn career-ready skills.

Alternative paths to hone these skills, like trade schools or on-the-job training, are valid means of education yet still overlooked by employers, contributing to a serious economic barrier for those without access to a college education.

With this in mind, nonprofit Opportunity@Work and the Ad Council created “Tear the Paper Ceiling,” an activation made up of more than 30,000 pieces of paper consisting of real resumes that represent the more than 70 million workers in the U.S. who are skilled through alternative routes (STARs).

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The installation, which debuted at this year’s CES conference, is part of a larger multiyear campaign launched in September aimed at changing the narrative around the value and potential of STAR workers by raising awareness around degree discrimination.

The “Tear the Paper Ceiling” installation was developed in collaboration with artist Samuelle Green and Ogilvy New York, and hosted by NBCUniversal at CES. The resumes featured in the work include names and skills and are intentionally not fully visible, as companies often don’t see the skills of STARs, acting as a physical demonstration of the economic tension these workers face.

“Ogilvy is thrilled to play a role in helping STARs rip through the paper ceiling so they can reach their full potential and have a fair chance at economic mobility,” Devika Bulchandani, global CEO of Ogilvy, said in a statement. “This campaign is an example of creativity at its best—helping impact people’s lives for the better and strengthen the fabric of our society.”

Letting the skills shine

For years the labor market has overlooked many workers simply because they don’t have a four-year degree.

However, since the pandemic tightened the labor pool, employers have been forced to change their perspective. Agencies such as Ogilvy, conversational AI shop RAIN and Movers+Shakers are confronting the talent crisis across industries by challenging the preconceived criteria for recruiting an ideal candidate.

”The fact that 70 million workers in the country are not valued adequately by employers today is a massive challenge, but also one that creates profound opportunity to build a better system,” Bulchandani said in a statement.