NSC’s new report explores the imperative of racial equity in workforce development

By Molly Bashay, September 13, 2019

In a new report, The Roadmap for Racial Equity: An imperative for workforce advocates, National Skills Coalition explores the racial and ethnic disparities in educational attainment and access; systemic barriers to equitable workforce training and quality employment; and why advancing equity is an economic and moral imperative.

The ethnic and racial diversity of the residents of the United States of America is one of the country’s unique strengths; however, Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Native, and certain Asian American workers face wide racial inequities in educational attainment, employment, and income. Immigrants, the majority of whom are people of color, face similar inequities in their educational and employment opportunities. The United States has fueled these disparities through decades of intentional, structurally racist policies, including those that have shaped postsecondary education and training.

Disparities have wide-ranging effects beyond workforce development

There are huge implications of these disparities for people, businesses, and our economy. Every person and every worker in the country deserves a fair shot at achieving economic stability and success. This is the right aspiration, especially for a country that professes the ideals of liberty and justice for all.

As for businesses, the U.S. workforce finds itself at a crucial inflection point. Jobs requiring skills training beyond the high school level, but not a four-year degree make up the largest part of the labor market in the United States and in each of the fifty states and are the backbone of the American economy. Yet too few workers can access the skills, training, and education necessary for these in-demand jobs, resulting in skills mismatch that leaves opportunity on the table.

Racial equity is an economic and moral imperative

Additional workforce policies are needed now to counter decades of intentional, structurally racist policies and advance racial equity in educational attainment, employment, and income. As long as these disparities exist, the country is undercutting its own economic competitiveness.

Racial workforce diversity is a key driver of America’s economic growth, as it is one of the most important predictors of business sales revenue, customer numbers, and profitability. Racial and gender diversity in the workforce was a major contributor to U.S. economic growth in the latter half of the 20th century. If education and training produced more equitable results for workers of color, the country could not only address the skills mismatch, but our workers, businesses, and economy would improve.

Now is the time to adjust workforce policies and craft new ones to correct racial disparities in educational attainment, employment, and income. By 2030, people of color will make up more than half of the national workforce. By 2044, most U.S. residents will be people of color.

Workforce development is not the sole answer, but a crucial part of the solution

Finally, the report acknowledges that workforce training and education is a crucial component, but not the sole answer, to addressing the vast employment, income, and wealth inequities between people of color and White Americans in the U.S.

Rather, workforce training and education are crucial tactics in addressing employment, income, and wealth disparities that preclude too many Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Native, and certain Asian American workers from economic and family security. It is our hope that our recommendations for advancing racial equity within state and federal workforce policies align with and supplement broader efforts in both the public and private sectors to achieve racial and economic equity. 

To advance racial equity through workforce policies, National Skills Coalition recommends that states and localities:

  • adopt racial equity goals and develop plans and systems to support them;
  • remove barriers to correctional education and training;
  • endorse racially equitable postsecondary policy by expanding career pathways and stackable credentials of value, job-driven and need-based financial aid, and tuition equity for immigrants; and
  • decouple work requirements and education and training restrictions from public assistance programs, just to name a few.

Learn more about NSC’s findings and recommendations in the full report.

This research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. National Skills Coalition thanks them for their support but acknowledges that the findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the foundation.