The Diaspora of the Segregated: How separate and unequal hurt the talent pipeline

February 21, 2018 |

In The Know: Updates from the President’s Desk
Vol. 1, Issue 11PatrickGraham

We’ve created a diaspora of the displaced and segregated that has serious consequences for the development of our talent pipeline. Segregation in Mecklenburg County, as in other parts of America, suffocates large portions of our talent pipeline by alienating individuals into areas of educational insufficiencies, closed off access to career-related experiences and deserts of economic development.  As companies find labor shortages and talent gaps within the workforce, thousands of unemployed individuals live in enclaves of devalued human assets and potential. Dealing with segregation is one of the crucial opportunities to reshape and develop talent.

Education, Career Paths and Segregation

The negative effects of segregation on talent pipeline development is clearly witnessed in our school systems. From 2001 to 2014, schools with at least 75 percent of African-American or Hispanic youth or high-poverty students doubled, according to a 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study. Schools with so-called racial or socioeconomic isolation grew from nine to 16 percent. These isolated schools offered less career and college-prep courses in math and science. They also lacked internships, pre-apprenticeships and other work-learn experiences that prepare talent for the current and future workforce.

Locally, Charlotte Works and the Quality of Life Explorer reveal that test proficiency rates are impacted by where a student lives. However, when presented with opportunities, isolated youth can add to new, creative classes of people who make us more globally competitive. If we’re to fill labor and talent shortages, we must develop and nurture the talent found in segregated communities.

De Jure and De Facto: Economic Development and Isolation

Historical and modern economic development projects create or reinforce racial and economic segregation. The Economic Policy Institute cites that “de jure” and “de facto” forms of segregation are intentionally created. De jure segregation refers to governmental roles – past roles in particular – that create segregated neighborhoods through practices like redlining in the housing market. De facto segregation refers to individuals choosing to create and design social and economic communities. Both play a role in divisions.

Government and economic development entities also reinforce economic isolation. For example, the majority of the Charlotte region’s governmental incentive packages for company recruitment go to firms with higher salaries (approximately $70,000 or more). Many individuals in economically segregated neighborhoods haven’t been afforded the educational opportunities these roles require. Just as important, the failure to recruit middle-wage jobs results in a lack of career and economic paths for isolated populations. Thus, de jure forms of segregation or polices that worsen isolation play a major role in talent pipeline development. We must intentionally address economic policies that give isolated populations access to economic prosperity to positively influence our talent pipeline and overall economy.

An Old Fight Needs New Innovation and New Courage

We have an opportunity to meet the new demands of our workforce by accessing the talent of our segregated neighborhoods and fully integrating them into our economy. This can be accomplished by addressing segregation head-on through access to education and economic development opportunities.

Charlotte Works’ new Careers4All platform proposes strategies to address segregation in a similar manner. Almost 65 years ago, America witnessed an attempt to end segregation in our schools and other institutions through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Topeka. Sixty years ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 – also known as the Fair Housing Act – attempted to end unfair housing practices such as the redlining policies of our own Housing and Urban Development. These historical attempts have fallen short due to various forms of de jure and de facto segregation. Outside of providing access to educational and economic opportunities, the ultimate way to get full access to the talent of isolated communities is to desegregate Mecklenburg County. This is hard to accomplish because it requires individual acts of courage and policy change. Equally important, it requires us to view our competitive edge through people we often don’t recognize as a true answer to our global economy, the diaspora of the segregated.

We’re more than up to the task. Are you?