If you look at how the US economy has changed over the years, you’ll see the evolution of an agrarian society impacted by industrial manufacturing becoming one that focuses on supply and services. In the past 20 years, however, we have become a technology-driven economy. Now we’re on the forefront of big data and analytics. One of the biggest challenges we face today is finding the right talent to fill the positions that drive this modern economy. We have talent shortages and skills gaps because our human capital has not kept up with the changing economy in general. We are making progress, but in technology more quickly than in education.
What prospects do these conditions provide for Hispanics? Are they poised to work in this economy?
From ManpowerGroup’s perspective, Hispanics are well-positioned to fuel economic growth but need to know what skills to learn. With the Hispanic population boom, we’re seeing some Hispanic growth in the health and education sectors, but there are still serious shortcomings in science, technology, engineering, and math. Hispanics are primarily concentrated in the industries where growth has been stagnant. Many work in agricultural, construction, and utility industries, where demand is limited. The Hispanic unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate, and those with less than a high school education are almost twice as likely to be unemployed. We also have a large influx of foreign-born Hispanics who didn’t have the opportunity to complete their education in their country of origin for a number of reasons. But if we can redirect and mentor them to pursue training in skilled trades, we will have a real equation for economic growth.
What are some of the obstacles to achievement facing Hispanics?
Language is at the core of these issues. Before Hispanics, especially non-US-born, can receive training in these specialized industries, they have to understand and speak English fluently. I came to the United States as a 12-year-old, not speaking a word of English. For me it was sink or swim. Socially, Hispanic immigrants tend to concentrate within Spanish-speaking communities with Latin markets and restaurants, listening to Spanish-language radio and TV stations. While that provides comfort, it slows their transition into the core American economic mainstream and deters advancement.
How do we get more talent interested in the skilled trades?
In our society, we place a very high value on a college education. We need to value technical training as much as we value a college degree. We need to promote the trades to ease the mismatch between employment opportunities and lack of talent. We have a lot of college grads who are unemployed, and at the same time, a growing demand in skilled labor fields. We need to align our technical training with business needs. Even the jobs that once required only a high school diploma have advanced to necessitate greater training and technological familiarity.
How does ManpowerGroup operate as a private enterprise while offering social service to the Hispanic community?
ManpowerGroup is a leader in diversity efforts, and that is an important resource for our clients. We hold seminars for employers on diversity, how to create an inclusive culture, and how to align diversity with return on investment. When you have a diversified workforce, you reflect the communities served. Employees feel valued, so they are more productive. ManpowerGroup’s senior vice president of North America, Jorge Perez, also developed a special initiative to promote the employment of people with disabilities, a highly skilled but underrepresented population in the workplace.