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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Dane Smith of Growth and Justice, a Minnesota public policy research and advocacy group
October 30, 2015

Minnesota’s economic future depends on reducing workforce inequities for people of color

Overview

The number one public policy priority for Minnesota is improving the quality of its workforce and simultaneously reducing disparities for people of color, Growth & Justice President Dane Smith says. He notes "truly embarrassing disparities" for blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans in employment, underemployment, higher education attainment, and achievement, starting in the very early years.

Smith notes that the Metropolitan Council forecasts that be 2040, 43 percent of working-age adults in the seven-county Twin Cities area will be persons of color. He points to a March 2015 Itasca Project statement, which stated that the economic future of the state depends on racial equity. He says the statement reinforces the notion of our very future depending on workforce equity for people of color. 

And the statement reported that despite robust job growth overall in recent years, the Twin Cities area has one of the largest employment rate gaps (13 percentage points) between white workers and workers of color among the 25 largest metropolitan areas, better only than Detroit and St. Louis. Ongoing discrimination is a root cause of the achievement, income and employment gaps, Smith says.

Drawing from work of the Growth & Justice initiative Workforce Equity for a Competitive Economy, Smith lists eight basic policy tools Minnesota could use to improve workforce equity: (1) Career pathways; (2) Postsecondary remediation reform; (3) Apprenticeships; (4) Evaluation and performance funding; (5) Early college credits; (6) Statewide goals; (7) Cost reduction; and (8) Full employment at livable wages.

Smith singles out specific projects around the state that are attempting to address the issue of workforce equity: Hennepin County's innovative efforts to fill job demand and to diversify its workforce at the same; programs in Itasca County, Northfield and Brooklyn Park that offer a positive environment for students' time outside of school hours; the Northside Achievement Zone in North Minneapolis, which works with low-income families to ensure that their children complete postsecondary education and earn college credentials; and workforce partnership programs in places like Alexandria and Brainerd, which expose high school students to workplaces offering good jobs in their communities.

For the complete interview summary see: Dane Smith interview

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

3. Essential to broaden opportunities Minnesota's future economic health is inescapably dependent upon broadening opportunities for a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

4. State must face growing diversity. The state cannot afford to ignore compelling evidence that people of color will grow to 43 percent of Minnesota's working-age population over the next 25 years.

5. Minorities must be hired at every job level. Employers need to ensure that people of color are proportionately represented at every job level.

6. Increase integrated skills/career training. It is critical that Minnesota substantially increase funding for existing efforts, such as Career Pathways, that integrate basic skills and career training in high-demand fields.

7. Failure at inclusivity is a cause of inequality. A significant cause of inequality in achievement and income is the failure of whites to include people of color in their networks and business associations.

8. Remove unnecessary job requirements. More employers should emulate Hennepin County government and remove unrealistic and unnecessary requirements for job applicants.

9. Do more to raise career expectations. Businesses and schools should do more to raise low-income students' aspirations for future careers.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

8%

17%

75%

12

2. Further study warranted.

0%

0%

8%

8%

83%

12

3. Essential to broaden opportunities

0%

0%

0%

8%

92%

12

4. State must face growing diversity.

0%

0%

0%

25%

75%

12

5. Minorities must be hired at every job level.

0%

0%

17%

42%

42%

12

6. Increase integrated skills/career training.

0%

0%

25%

17%

58%

12

7. Failure at inclusivity is a cause of inequality.

0%

8%

8%

25%

58%

12

8. Remove unnecessary job requirements.

0%

8%

0%

33%

58%

12

9. Do more to raise career expectations.

0%

0%

8%

17%

75%

12

Individual Responses:

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Phil Griffin (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)

Dennis Carlson (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
5. Minorities must be hired at every job level. Essential but very tough to do. Previous job experience, licensure, screening and hiring committees that are all white, and attracting applicants of color to all white institutions (and communities) are all barriers. In public institutions like schools and other local government jobs, employees of color should reflect the same percentages that live in the community. The private sector should also embrace that goal. Wells Fargo would be a good example of a national company attempting to do just that.

6. Increase integrated skills/career training. We need a model that includes the masses not just a chosen few.

7. Failure at inclusivity is a cause of inequality. Really good point—inclusivity starts at home and at work.

8. Remove unnecessary job requirements. Hennepin County is doing an impressive job on many, many levels on this issue.

9. Do more to raise career expectations. College Possible, AVID, and in the Twin Cities area, the Wallin Education Partners scholarships, are all doing a great job in this area—they just need much more financial support to increase the numbers of students that really need a boost. Early College efforts also need much more support in our high schools. A current proposal by the Higher Learning Commission to increase licensure requirements for high school teachers goes in the wrong direction.

At the top of this survey it names Dean Smith, who is a legendary basketball coach at the University of North Carolina. My comments are directed toward Dane Smith, a legendary Minnesotan who has worked on behalf of growth and justice issues for decades. As much as I love basketball I'll still take Dane over Dean! Thank you Civic Caucus for continuing to focus on these critical issues for Minnesota.

Bruce A. Lundeen (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (5) (10) (10) (10)
3. Essential to broaden opportunities. Attention is given to the lack of value; white privilege causes injustice and economic disparity. Many of the workers in suburban America simply [do] not contribute value in the workplace corresponding to their salaries. The fact is they are overpaid.

5. Minorities must be hired at every job level. It is not an employer problem; it is an employee of the employer problem. Look at the example of trades employment, especially the success of black candidates in Union employment and apprenticeships. If it were not for the recent public outcry bringing attention to the matter, there still would be no people of color or women leaving the U.S. Bank Stadium or at road construction sites at end of the workday.

6. Increase integrated skills/career training. Funding does not contribute to increasing self-worth, esteem or the will to succeed. And to assign the problem to a lack of parental interest or skill does little to improve the problem either.

8. Remove unnecessary job requirements. In capitalist economics the corporation is more attuned to the bottom line than the individuals who contribute to improving it. However sordid and improper the example, slavery is creates wealth. Company owners, both shareholders and sole proprietors have had the pleasure [of] easy profits for generations. Now as social costs rise margins will diminish; the additional loads on the money supply is already causing stress.

9. Do more to raise career expectations. This is key. To assign lack of minority achievement on lacking parental interest and role models is indeed fact, but the problem has existed too long.

Alan Miller (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
9. Do more to raise career expectations. Dane Smith, a frequent guest on my TV show, "Access to Democracy" reflects intelligent and far-reaching suggestions for the betterment of our society. His research is flawless, his conscience and capacity to express evolutionary concepts is extremely important to our future.

Vici Oshiro (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Hooray, Dane!

Bob Brown (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (10) (10)
5. Minorities must be hired at every job level. What we do not need is a quota system, which will set groups against each other. What is better is career education to make more low-income and minority students aware of the opportunities and more and better-trained counselors to work with the youth. I haven't checked recently, but the last that I saw was Minnesota was second to last in the nation in ratio of counselors to students in the public schools. We also need to have counseling services available to parents to assist them in helping their children in career planning.

6. Increase integrated skills/career training. Along with the things you mentioned, STEM and STEP are already funded pretty well to help kids gain interest and skills in science and technical programs. The amount of money spent in some school districts does not seem to affect educational outcomes. A better allocation of resources in the schools along with a coordinated, focus effort by foundations should be adequate to make a major difference.

7. Failure at inclusivity is a cause of inequality. While some of this failure is deliberate (plumbers' union is a great historic example), much of the problem is simply a lack of understanding by people who do not look beyond their own job and neighborhood. Education, business, government, and religious leaders all have a responsibility to get people to have a broader vision of their community—local, state, and national.

9. Do more to raise career expectations. Don't raise expectations unless you are willing to create opportunities proportionately or you will create a disillusioned group.

I don't have time to discuss all the problems I see, but here are three examples: 1.Most educators are trained in narrow fields and don't have the time, energy, and background to help students develop understanding of the opportunities available to them. 2. In many cases in our post secondary educational institutions the academic staff look down in the technical staff even thought the techies are more likely to provide their students with employable skills. 3 Too often school personnel allow low income and minority students to take easy courses that do little or nothing to prepare them for life.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (10) (5) (10) (5) (7.5) (7.5)
5. Minorities must be hired at every job level. Hire and promote based upon individual qualifications.

Tom Spitznagle (5) (5) (7) (8) (5) (5) (1) (2) (5)
If some groups are focused on what happened to them over the last 300 years as opposed to what they can do to take advantage of the opportunities available to them today then they will never achieve equity with other groups in the areas of education and employment. It is obvious that there exist several social factors that are holding back many people of color. Pouring more money into social programs can only accomplish a limited change if people themselves are not motivated to address these negative social factors (out-of-wedlock births, single parent families, drugs, over-reliance on welfare programs, etc.). The disparities between African Americans and immigrant Blacks supports this assertion. Finally, in my experience with a number of large MN corporations since 1970, I observed that there have been numerous and steadily growing opportunities for minorities and women with the right skills and a positive work attitude. I could make a very long list of all of the minority and women professionals and managers that I have enjoyed working with and for since 1970 starting with a Black, female electrical engineer from Alabama. I can’t imagine that my experiences were all that unique.

Chuck Lutz (9) (8) (10) (10) (9) (8) (9) (8) (10)

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10) (10) (8) (10) (9) (10) (10)
Smith pointed out inescapable facts and the need for more action. Our schools still need to attain greater relevancy for all students. Field trips, internships, service learning and experiential learning must increase. Current World’s Best Workforce legislation is an appropriate beginning. It is important that students understand that college means goals that are boarder than typical academic courses in community colleges and universities. Otherwise they don’t complete programs. Too much time in K-1 2 and higher education is spent on unaffiliated academic courses rather than vocational preparation. Unfortunately, typical academic paradigms block change. Programs like Alexandria High School with the community college are a good start.

Paul Hauge (9) (10) (10) (9) (7) (8) (10) (9) (10)
 

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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

 

 

 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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