UpSkill SA!

How might we quickly upskill incumbent retail workers to prepare them for careers in Advanced Manufacturing and other growth sectors that can enable their social mobility?


San Antonio, Texas, is the second fastest growing city in the nation and its 18.6% poverty rate is the highest among the 25 most populous U.S. Metropolitan Areas (U.S. Census Bureau 2019). Concentrated poverty and an increasing income divide make San Antonio one of the most economically segregated American cities. Lower-wage jobs dominate the job market and a mismatch of skills and employer needs is a barrier to social mobility.

Creative, place-based approaches bridging industry and higher education are essential to equip incumbent workers with the tools necessary to compete for higher wage jobs. For San Antonio, such partnerships could be key to unlocking economic opportunity.

In collaboration with Goodwill San Antonio, Alamo Colleges Online, Palo Alto College, and SA Works, the Lab is designing two upskilling pathways that position incumbent frontline retail workers with the skills necessary to advance to higher-wage, middle-skilled jobs in advanced manufacturing and other growth sectors.

With a local footprint of 24 retail centers across seven counties in the region, Goodwill San Antonio employs 1,400 workers, including many frontline incumbent workers who serve in customer-facing and logistics capacities. UpSkill SA! aims to quickly upskill Goodwill San Antonio’s incumbent workers, most of whom are adults facing life barriers to employment. Through these pilots, we will support workers as they receive a foundational exposure to both 21st century and technical skills that will prepare them for careers in Advanced Manufacturing and other growth sectors.

Primary Audience

Incumbent frontline retail workers

Project Length

February 1, 2019 - August 1, 2021

Numbers of Learners Impacted

Initial Pilot Impact: 47, as of Spring 2020; At Scale Expected Impact: 500, by August 2021


Alamo Colleges Online (Texas)Palo Alto College (Texas)

Two Upskilling Pilots Launched

With support from, the Lab is piloting two upskilling models to test the Lab’s 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials as pathways to middle-skilled jobs for frontline workers at Goodwill San Antonio in Texas: SkillsBooster and Certificate Plus. Both programs have launched two cohorts that have engaged nearly 50 team members through Spring 2020, with plans to expand to another 50 – 75 team members by the end of 2020. 

This project has truly been a team effort. While the Lab pitched the original idea, secured the funding, and manages the project, our partners have been critical in bringing the proposal to life and testing the model against the program outcomes. Goodwill San Antonio has been our primary source of talent and support services for our participants (for everything from life coaching to assistance completing financial aid documentation). They also provided key design criteria to guide us in curating the badge content to be most accessible to their team members and helped us to build customized proving grounds that prepare their employees to quickly demonstrate their newly acquired skills on the job. Our partners at Alamo Colleges District have served as our learning partner, designing the online learning experience, training faculty to facilitate the courses and support participants, and complementing the wraparound services provided by Goodwill San Antonio to ensure that students have all they need to succeed. 

Preliminary results from pre/post surveys with supervisors for the first Micro-credential in the SkillsBooster cluster, Resilience, show significant growth in leadership, confidence, and productivity. A separate pilot, pairing the Lab’s Collaboration Micro-credential with a logistics management certificate program, has shown similar positive results from supervisors.