Where are the future jobs for blacks?

Michael Lawson | 3/14/2012, 8:35 a.m.

Some Republicans are taking note, and focusing on black unemployment. Last month, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, hosted the Conservative Black Forum to discuss issues relevant to the black community, including the jobs crisis.

Watts and other participants in the forum discussed how to direct capital to African American communities for business creation. African Americans represented 9 percent of new businesses started in 2010, according to the Kauffman Foundation. West supports the creation of enterprise zones. Extremely favorable conditions would attract businesses to locate and start in certain targeted zones. Labor, minimum wage and many regulations would be suspended in addition to credits to companies. Watts said creating a favorable business climate would help residents create businesses, to break the cycle.

“You know who hires the most black people in Chicago? Black people. It’s those black small business owners that hire people in the community,” said Watts. “We’re not anti-Republican or anti-conservative to say we ought to incentivize people to attract investment capital in underserved communities.”

The next generation

African Americans are poised to take advantage of areas where job growth will be greatest over the next decade, according to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are expected to be 5.6 million additional jobs in the health and social assistance industry. African Americans now make up 16 percent of the workforce in this industry, a greater percentage than their share of the total workforce.

But African Americans remain under-represented in another fast-growing industry and clearer path to upward mobility — professional, scientific and technical services.

As the nation transitions further into a knowledge-based economy requiring more education, James McKissic wants to make sure today’s youth are prepared.

McKissic works with the Chattanooga, Tenn., affiliate of the National Urban League, which started a program designed to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. So far, more than 600 students have participated.

“A lot of the students before the program came felt left out because they weren’t athletes, they weren’t jocks, they weren’t cheerleaders,” said McKissic, chief operating officer of the affiliate.

The academy, launched in 2007 as a two-week summer program, has grown into a six-month, after-school program for students in sixth through eighth grades. Students are exposed to various areas of STEM careers through partnerships with Comcast, ATandT and Volkswagen.

“People from Chattanooga and young people who are living and growing up and learning here, we want them to be able to take advantage of those types of jobs,” said McKissic. “And that’s why we’re offering this to our students because we know that it leads to a stable foundation later in life.”

Post-secondary education in any field has not been a guarantee for employment in this economy for anyone, but it does help. The unemployment rate for Americans with a bachelor’s degree is less than half that of the nation overall. Nearly two-thirds of jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018.

But the unemployment rate for African Americans with a bachelor’s degree is still one and a half times the national rate, according to BLS.