Minnesota has been front and center in the conversation about race in our country. Like many of you, I was nervous about the outcome of the Chauvin trial and then relieved that the jury found him guilty on all counts. And then, I woke up the next day knowing that the practices and patterns of racial exclusion continue.
As a Black man in Minnesota, I still have a better chance of being pulled over than a White person, a better chance of dropping out of school than a White person, a better chance of being paid less than a White person with the same education in the same job, and a better chance of renting, not owning my own home.
Statistically, I have a better chance of a lot of those things because of long-standing racially exclusive policies of the federal, state, and local governments where I live. The policies that created residential segregation and school segregation and determined which neighborhoods would be divided and destroyed by highways were set in place long before my family arrived here in the 1990s, but their legacy remains. My children and yours are deeply impacted by them.
These systems work together to oppress entire communities and to limit the possibilities for whole neighborhoods. It’s time to recognize—and change—how these systems combine and compound racial inequality in Minnesota. Because a disproportionate risk to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color is a disproportionate risk to us all.
At the MN DEED, we have been changing our systems and making improvements to increase opportunities for workforce development training and career pathways for people who have been systematically excluded from education and employment. Since the pandemic began, our efforts have increased and shifted.
The state’s CareerForce system is the place for Minnesotans to go to get support in a job search and to connect with available resources. Last year, CareerForce offices had to close to in-person visits, but they added content online and developed new materials to support job seekers.
Currently, CareerForce staff is focused on hospitality and food service workers, industries hit the hardest by the pandemic, and occupations that are disproportionately worked by women and People of Color. We are reaching people by phone and through web services to offer career counseling, resume development, and other job search help and to match people with training and employment opportunities.
We’re also recognizing that workforce development is more than just the training program and an employment offer. It requires supportive services, also called “wrap-around” services like transportation, child care, technical and digital support.
Disruptive innovation isn’t only for tech firms in Silicon Valley; it’s for us. Minnesota needs to actively dismantle the systems in place that exclude entire communities from the opportunities and advancements available to some.
As a State agency, we don’t act alone to create an equitable workforce development system. We work with a network of partners, including state and federal lawmakers and local workforce development boards. Each entity in the system has a role to play so that we continue efforts that expand access to our system.
Working together, we can make changes to the system that will provide Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Minnesota with a better chance.
Hamsa Warfa is deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.