In the pandemic economy, labor experts have called for increased government funding for skill development programs, particularly to expand those that have been shown to help guide workers into middle-class careers. It is low-wage workers, disproportionately black and Latinos who are hardest hit by the current slump. And there are concerns that if the economic recovery comes, it will only widen the income gap between workers.
The government has a role to play, the researchers said. However, they point out that the private sector, which is by far the largest employer, needs to change its perception, hiring habits and career development programs to improve opportunities for non-graduate workers.
“Companies need to see this talent pool and establish it,” said Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity @ Work. “System changes in the labor market have as much to do with employer practices as they do with public policy.”
There are signs of progress in the business world. For example, the Rework America Business Network, a Markle Foundation initiative, is a group of large corporations committed to competency-based recruitment for many jobs, often requiring a college degree. Companies include AT&T, Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, and Walmart.
But they are the exception. According to a recent study, employers often require a four-year college degree for 74 percent of new jobs in America. Graduate screening excludes approximately two-thirds of American workers. The impact is greatest on minorities, eliminating 76 percent of blacks and 83 percent of Latinos.
The filter for university degrees, so Auguste, is “self-harm for the economy as well as racist and ethical”.