Written by Serie McDougal
Job training programs provide two essential services: 1. Skills that are aligned with employment opportunities, 2. Link trained job seekers with job placement (NUPI, 2012). The National Urban League (2011) proposes the authorization of the Workforce Investment Act, to increase national investment in the re-training of workers for 21st-century jobs. This kind of training can be targeted toward less educated workers who lost their jobs in the great recession. This way, Black males could gain the skills necessary to benefit from new job growth. The dramatic increase in demand for H1b visas by U.S. companies in the 1990s is evidence of the failure to invest in the educational development of domestic youth, especially African Americans (Hardy & Buckner, 2011). This is significant given that jobs that require a post-secondary education have been projected to increase faster than jobs requiring a high school diploma or less between 2012 and 2022 (Burns, 2014; Johnson & Shelton, 2014). Some cities, like Baltimore, have established job hubs that serve high numbers of African Americans, providing them with professional training, job search and resume assistance, and digital resources (Rawlings-Blake, 2014). Bryant (2013) explains the role of the non-profit called Operation Hope, which provides underserved communities with financial literacy empowerment and entrepreneurial training. Operation Hope has helped people open bank accounts, raise their credit scores, with the goal of changing their lives and communities. In response to the high-profile police killing of Michael Brown, a young African American male, the Saint Louis affiliate of the National Urban League, developed the Save Our Sons Workforce Development Program (SOS). The program is focused on helping African American males find viable employment (McMillan, 2016). The major tenants of the four-week program are 1. How to find a job, 2. How to keep a job, 3. How to get promoted, and 4. How to remain marketable in the workplace (McMillan, 2016). The program has helped hundreds of men find jobs, 55% of whom had prior felony convictions (McMillan, 2016).
Intermediaries can also help in a workforce development capacity. Nightingale (2010) identifies two types of workforce development intermediaries: 1. labor exchange services intermediaries (LESI), and 2. Institutional or administrative intermediaries (IAI). LESIs are programs, companies, and organizations, or persons that act as a link between job seekers and employers. IAIs are programs, companies, agencies, or organizations that act on behalf of government agencies, usually under contract, to provide labor exchange services or other employment-related services to clients seeking employment (Nightingale, 2010). Black communities can create their own intermediaries through neighborhood job clubs, and organizations to share wisdom about financial literacy, and managing personal resources (The Covenant with Black America, 2006). The development of independent Black community run intermediaries may offer essential local, culturally relevant services to supplement other job services.
Job Creation and Training in Targeted Industries
Some argue that government intervention is often necessary because poor Blacks are significantly vulnerable to structural changes in the economy like the shift from manufacturing to the service industry. While in the 1980s 42% of newly created jobs were in the service industry, in the 1990s 53% were (Holzer & Offner, 2006). The Urban League has long advocated that job creation funding should be distributed nationally giving priority to places with the highest unemployment, particularly targeting the long-term unemployed (Morial, Wilson, Richardson & Clark, 2010). The National Urban League proposes the creation of jobs and training of urban residents in several key areas: technology, through the funding of grants, business incubators, and technology training sites to foster business growth; health care, through recruiting, training, and hiring urban residents as nurses, physicians’ assistants, etc.; manufacturing jobs, by using financial incentives to promoting the purchase of American manufacturing goods; urban infrastructure, by increasing the number of railroad projects, urban water systems maintenance, expansion of parks, public buildings, and schools in under-served neighborhoods, and ; clean energy jobs, by giving tax deductions for clean energy companies to invest in urban area programs to improve the energy efficiency of buildings (NUL, 2011). Urban infrastructure jobs might also include training of inner city youth to install, repair, and maintain new sustainable electronic equipment and appliances in homes and businesses (Dodd, 2009). In addition, other much-needed projects including the rebuilding of American bridges and modernizing the country’s electrical grids (Dodd, 2009). These infrastructure jobs would increase the overall unemployment rate, and a 1% decline in the overall unemployment rate is associated with a 15.4% decline in the African American male unemployment rate (Rodgers, 2009). Some propose comprehensive neighborhood revitalization efforts that coordinated, government-funded efforts to develop initiatives such as, Choice and Promise Neighborhoods, Promise Zones, and the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiatives. Conservative politicians usually rally against such place-based initiatives.
Solutions for Youth Employment
Youth Opportunity Grants provide funding for programs that provide community-based youth development strategies could provide opportunities could provide opportunities for job training programs (Nightingale & Sorenson, 2006). However, because of the urgency of employment, many young Black men miss school for work. Nightingale & Sorenson (2006) point out that job training programs may not be the best solution for some youth. Because of the immediacy of their own and their families’ financial states, they are more interested in immediate employment than job training (Nightingale & Sorenson, 2006). For these young men, on the job training opportunities may be better suited to benefit them; in these programs, they would receive an hourly wage while training (Nightingale & Sorenson, 2006). Particularly effective for Black males would be an increase in programs that provide subsidies for employers who provide targeted groups (underrepresented ethnic groups) with on-the-job training (Johnson & Shelton, 2014). These programs have been shown to positively affect employment and earnings among those who are 18 and older (Johnson & Shelton, 2014). In addition, job search programs have proven effective for participants. Between 1993 and 1998 youth job training funding was reduced and shifted to training for dislocated workers (few of whom were young adults) (Nightingale & Sorenson, 2006). Dislocated workers are defined as:
Preparation for New Job Market
From George Washington Carver’s agricultural science to Charles Drew’s lifesaving medical work, Black men have made important contributions to human society in the areas of advanced technologies. New jobs will require higher skills than in the past, even blue-collar jobs that once employed low skilled workers will require training in science, technology, engineering, and math (Rawlings-Blake, 2014). African Americans must be a part of the transition into a knowledge-based, technology-driven economy (Marshall, 2013). Black men will need to draw upon their legacy of science and technology to thrive and uplift the Black community in a changing economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 122,000 high paying jobs per-year that require a computer science bachelor’s degree, but American colleges and universities only graduate 40,000 students with a bachelor’s degree in computer science (Humphries, 2013). It is important for youth to be trained to assume jobs in the emerging job market that will include growing number of STEM jobs in the next decade (Moore, Flowers & Flowers, 2014). This is critical given that African Americans are 13% of the population of the U.S. yet, only 6% of the STEM workforce (Moore, Flowers & Flowers, 2014). African Americans’ share of the scientific workforce was 7.4% in 2000 and decreased to 6.5 in 2010 (Sharpe, 2011). African Americans are underrepresented in the STEM workforce due to educational inequities, which hinders them from competing for jobs that require STEM skills (Sharpe, 2011). According to some, African Americans must overcome their particular aversion to STEM fields (Shepherd, 2014). Sharpe (2011) suggests that preconceptions about African American students’ interests are false because evidence suggests that their Black college students have been found to have a greater interest in STEM disciplines than their White counterparts. The interest in majoring in STEM disciplines among African American youth is actually increasing (Sharpe, 2011). However, it is true that many of them switch majors after under-performing or having poor interactions with faculty, which suggests that they need greater preparation for STEM fields before reaching college. Moreover, educational institutions need to be better prepared to teach and interact with Black students in culturally relevant ways. Between 1998 and 2008, the cumulative number of STEM degrees earned by Black women exceeds those earned by Black men, although Black men earned nearly twice as many degrees in engineering as Black women (Sharpe, 2011).
The national Department of Energy launched the Minority Serving Institution Partnership in 2012 which has provided $4 million in research grants to over 20 HBCUs giving them access to the Department’s resources. The objective of the program is to give them access to technology to increase interest in STEM fields (Harris, 2013). Other programs like the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship is a ten-week internship providing minority and female STEM students who want to work on fossil fuel challenges with the Department of Energy (Harris, 2013). In the private sector, AT&T for example, launched Project Velocity IP to expand wired and wireless internet access to under-served communities (Marshall, 2013). However, there must be programs that are targeted opportunities for Black males. Government funded and supported job creation and training strategies are ultimately necessary yet insufficient. Difficulties in seeking such support are inherent because supporting Black male economic power will imminently undermine White privilege. Thus, Black male economic empowerment but built on a coupling of government supported initiatives and independent Black institution building and the growth of Black-owned businesses.
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