Report: Growing Hispanic Population Presents Opportunities to Fill Skills Gap

Look for upcoming SHRM coverage of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute

By Kathy Gurchiek Sep 16, 2016
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U.S. employers are facing a skills shortage in the manufacturing, information technology and engineering fields and should turn to the rapidly growing Hispanic population to fill this void, according to a report by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The report, released Sept. 14 during CHCI's annual conference, is the latest result of SHRM's collaboration with CHCI. It is a relationship that has spanned more than eight years. CHCI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan leadership development organization in the U.S. that aims to educate, empower and connect Latino youths.

J. Robert "Bob" Carr, J.D., SHRM-SCP, SHRM senior vice president of membership and external affairs and member of the CHCI advisory board, noted that discussions about the future workforce must include recognition of the growing Hispanic population. He made his remarks during a CHCI luncheon focusing on the skills gap and Latinos in the U.S.

About one-quarter, or 14.6 million, of all Hispanics are Millennials (ages 18 to 33 in 2014), according to the Pew Research Center analysis. 

Poised to Transform the Economy

Many of the fastest-growing jobs—those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields—pay well and require education beyond a high school diploma.

"We know that the tech sector is fueling job growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be approximately 1 million newly created STEM jobs in the next 10 years," Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., and CHCI chairwoman, noted in the report.

Depending on how STEM jobs are defined, the size of the STEM workforce can range from 5 percent to 20 percent of all U.S. workers. Hispanics account for 6.5 percent of those jobs, according to the report.

Jobs often go unfilled because of a lack of workers with the skills employers are seeking. The report looked at the educational barriers Hispanics can face in being prepared for college and the workforce.

Among Hispanics, only 18.6 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, versus 27.3 percent of black, 37.7 of white and 60.1 percent of Asian people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Latinos lack the proper education and training to be viable, marketable candidates ... for the jobs of the future," said Domenika Lynch, CHCI president and CEO. She also serves as executive director of the Latino Alumni Association at the University of Southern California.

A Pew Research Center report described Hispanics as the youngest major racial or ethnic group in the U.S. About one-third, or 17.9 million, of the nation's Hispanic population is younger than 18, it noted. Additionally, Hispanic Millennials are much more likely to speak English proficiently and much less likely to be immigrants than older Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center analysis.

"We have time to be trained and educated for the 21st century jobs," Lynch said.

From 2010 to 2013, Hispanics increased their STEM credentials by obtaining certificates and associate, bachelor's and graduate degrees. For example, during that time, the number of STEM certificates earned by Latinos increased 160 percent, from 3,655 to 9,502 certificates.

Between 1998 and 2012, Hispanic college enrollment increased by 34 percent, and it's projected to grow 16 percent between 2012 and 2023. But while college enrollment has increased dramatically, according to the report, the attrition rate is high, in part because of a lack of affordability and an unawareness of financial aid such as scholarships.

"We have to make sure we get more of our folks graduating from high school and college," said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, during the luncheon. "We need to make sure we get higher levels of education ... then we can increase our income. They're [both] tied in."

A Roadmap

SHRM's Carr called the report "a roadmap" that includes case studies and employer best practices, such as:

  • Mentoring in college and in the workforce. In 2016, SHRM and CHCI partnered to pilot a paid HR internship for undergraduate and graduate students. Three students completed their summer internships, and two others will serve fall internships.
  • Peer support systems. The Hispanic Women's Network of Texas, for example, provides professional development and skills training, leadership opportunities, and educational sessions for Hispanics. It also raises money for college scholarships for Latinos. 
  • Training programs such as apprenticeships and internships.
  • Creative benefits—scholarships, tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, flexible leave, maternity leave and family leave appeal to a wide range of employees, including Hispanic Millennials.
Some companies are thinking beyond even those benefits. A real estate company in Maine, for example, offers a 20 percent discount on monthly rent, and employees may lease vacation suites for $20 a night—a benefit that employees' children and parents also may enjoy. While not limited to Hispanics, it is a benefit that could appeal to Hispanic Millennials who typically are part of large extended families, the report noted.

CHCI's Lynch stressed that the report is a tool that can be used to affect change.

"We don't want this to be another white paper in Washington, D.C. We want it to be a guiding force, a strategy-builder, so we can have impact and start diversifying various industries," she said.

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