A new report out this week shows the Twin Cities has one of the largest unemployment disparities between blacks and whites.
A study done by the Economic Policy Institute shows the Twin Cities metro area's 2011 unemployment rate among blacks was three times that among whites. The Twin Cities had the highest ratio among the 19 cities studied.
The author of the study, Algernon Austin, came to the Twin Cities two years ago to discuss similar findings with metro community leaders. In the crowd was Jane Samargia, executive director at HIRED, an organization that provides job training. Samargia says she works with many African-American job seekers who miss out on opportunities because of lack of experience and education.
"We see many African-American youth who have not really experienced a working role model, haven't experienced work, or even as young adults, have not worked much and certainly have never thought of themselves as going into formal training or college," she said.
Samargia says the disparity is also caused by unwillingness for some employers to hire people of diverse backgrounds. She says HIRED and other community resources are working together to provide training, education and subsidized jobs for disadvantaged workers. They’re also offering support to employers to encourage them to be open to diversity.
"It’s frustrating because I know we could do more if we had the resources to do more," says Samargia. "Funding has decreased for workforce preparation programs from the federal and state levels. And that makes a difference in preparing people who have faced discrimination or who have not worked or not completed school for any number of reasons."
Samargia says, while the most recent study results are disappointing, she's encouraged by the attention the issue is receiving and the effort organizations like HIRED are putting forth to fix this problem.
"That kind of a number doesn’t change overnight," says Samargia. "It requires sustained focus by the entire community over a number of years. It can't be the issue today and forgotten tomorrow."
July 5, 2012