Friday, May 24, 2024

Jobs that work for African-Americans…

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( The most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that blacks represent 15.6 percent of the overall 10 percent of unemployed American workers. Even with the slight improvement in unemployment rates among African-Americans, recent reports note that college-educated black men can’t find work and that a minority’s chances of landing good jobs are fleeting.

An Economic Policy Institute study, also released last month, shows the overall erosion of good jobs over the past 30 years. The study defines good jobs as those that pay enough to support a decent standard of living and offers health insurance and a retirement plan.

Despite the brutal unemployment numbers, some economic forecasters and business experts point to occupations that show promise for African-American workers. Health care occupations appear on most lists, with the BLS’ figures showing that 29,000 such jobs were filled in October alone. Since the start of the recession, health care has added 597,000 jobs. Other high-growth jobs mentioned by the BLS include temporary help services, which added 44,000 jobs since July, including 34,000 in October.

Additional high-growth jobs include network systems analysts, computer software engineers, veterinarians, forensic scientists, public relations, insurance underwriters, electrical and electronic engineers, social workers and clergy. Green-related jobs also are touted, although there is a brewing debate about how accessible they are to blacks.

Algernon Austin, who directs the EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, said the center defined “good jobs” in 2008 as those having an annual income of $30,000 or paying $14.51 per hour for a full-time, full-year worker.

Improving access to good jobs for Americans requires that the nation enlarge that pool by setting a target of making 75 percent of all jobs good jobs. While nearly a third of current jobs meet the criteria of a good job, many do not meet wage standards. Adopting universal health care and reforming the pension system would cause good jobs to rise to 56 percent, according to the EPI study.

We can’t rely on creating a supply of good jobs by accident,” says Austin. “We need a national good jobs strategy and commitment from policy makers to pursue it.” Some strategies to increase good jobs and reduce the gap that exists between whites and nonwhites include increasing union membership, resetting the minimum wage, and addressing inequities in the labor market, including racial discrimination and improving education and training for people of color.

The more educated someone is, the more likely they are to find work or a good job,” says Austin.

Austin is unconvinced that a “greening economy” is the solution.

Green jobs have a great deal of promise, potential and hype,” says Austin. “It’s important to take them with a grain of salt. Basically about half are going to be not great jobs and half would be good jobs. If we just create them and let the status quo work its magic, African-Americans will be under-represented.”

Ken Daniels, a finance professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, largely agrees with Austin, noting that health care jobs are recession resistant, and that the industry generally employs minorities across the spectrum.

In terms of the green trend, he rhetorically asks, “How do you train minorities for green technology?” He points out that in Virginia, much of the growth for green technology is in the Southwest where coal is produced.

That’s not in minority communities.”

Daniels believes that a focus on creating jobs in urban communities, much like efforts during the post-civil rights era of the 1970s, will contribute to good jobs for blacks. Meanwhile, he points to an abundance of apprenticeship jobs in Los Angeles that will yield high-skills and pay in construction and that do not require a college degree.

In terms of education, people such as Linnie Carter, the president and CEO of Linnie Carter & Associates LLC, has long advocated advanced training and lifelong learning. Carter, who recently obtained her doctorate degree, provides development, public relations and marketing services to colleges and universities. Public relations continually ranks high as a field attractive to African-Americans.

The public relations profession is a high-growth one for African-Americans for several reasons,” Carter says. First, more and more organizations are beginning to understand the importance and value of communicating effectively with minority populations, including African-Americans. Who better to do that than African-Americans public relations professionals?

Also, the convergence of social media and public relations is a great opportunity for African-Americans to enter the public relations profession,” Carter adds. “Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn require traditional and new skills that are possessed by and appealing to many African-Americans.

Carter also says the public relations profession is ideal for talented African-Americans who would like to start their own businesses and make their mark as their own bosses.”

Written By Bonnie Davis

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!