Our region faces workforce challenges that disproportionately impact communities of color. Minnesota is already experiencing a significant drop in labor force growth. According to the State Demographer, projections indicate only 0.1% labor force growth from 2020 to 2025 and zero labor force growth into 2045. In fact, by 2045 the state will need an additional 326,000 new workers to maintain a 0.5% labor force growth rate. More urgently, from 2016 to 2020 the state will need an additional 49,700 new workers (on top of the projected 33,400 workers entering the workforce during that time period) in order to continue a 0.5% labor force growth rate over the next five years.
The Twin Cities region is also home to some of the greatest racial disparities in employment and education compared with the other metropolitan areas across the country. Communities of color face many barriers to participating in the workforce, including, but not limited to:
- Failing public school systems: School systems which fail to graduate around 50% of students of color and then fail them again in subsequent GED programs which have poor completion rates, particularly following changes to the exam in 2014.
- Lack of opportunity for education and training: until July 2014, a 30% cap on the number of MFIP participants that could pursue education or job training.
- Limited access: a lack of social networks that support entry into the economic mainstream.
- ‘Soft-skills’ policies: systems focused on providing support services and soft skills as opposed to industry-recognized hard skills that enable individuals to obtain good jobs.
All of these factors are exacerbated as our workforce growth slows to a halt and the composition of the workforce itself becomes more diverse. As noted by our State Demographer, “failing to better develop the talent of all residents is squandering needed human capital. Some of the poorest performing groups are also the fastest growing among Minnesota’s population.”
We simply cannot afford to leave unskilled, underutilized communities of color on the sidelines anymore. Developing the human capital of these communities is our opportunity. Summit Academy OIC is a community leader in growing a skilled, diverse workforce that will help to ensure stability for our regional economy while connecting low-income people with the tools they need to escape poverty.