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$16 trillion economic cost of racial discrimination for last 20 years; manufacturing organizations focusing on workforce equity

October 08, 2020

Against the backdrop of a recent report from Citigroup Global Perspectives & Solutions that tags the cost of failing to address the racial gaps between Blacks and whites in the U.S. economy over the last 20 years at $16 trillion, the Industry and Inclusion initiative — a joint effort by the Urban Manufacturing Alliance and the Century Foundation — is working towards making Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) the centerpiece of workforce development strategy. Highlighting best practices for supporting people of color in accessing and building wealth through opportunities in manufacturing, the initiative offers a framework for all workforce development organizations to accelerate their efforts in closing racial equity gaps.

While manufacturing accounted for approximately 10 percent of U.S. GDP in 2019, the sector’s characteristics and workforce challenges allow it to provide lessons to many other sectors. A recent webinar by the Industry and Inclusion initiative featured eight leading urban workforce development organizations and showcased several effective methods for beginning to address systemic issues of racism and inequity in manufacturing — such as access to education and skills training, access to capital, firm ownership, and other methods — as well as strategies for improving implementation of DE&I efforts.

While examples of successful programs abound, the initiative also highlights the importance of taking a holistic approach in treating systemic inequity. Programs must directly serve clients, typically through matching individuals to skills training and/or job opportunities, but must also consider the interests of and earn the buy-in from industry, educational, nonprofit and public sector partners. Increasing DE&I in manufacturing and elsewhere requires careful collaboration among these partners to effectively implement and administer a wide range of programs, as well as remaining vigilant in keeping DE&I at the center of policy and program design.

Other industries face similar challenges to those of the U.S. manufacturing sector in adapting to the workforce demands of increasing technology adoption and international competition. The Industry and Inclusion initiative provides examples for how these challenges can be met while maintaining focus on increasing equity and diversity in the workforce, leading to better economic outcomes for all.

While it is unlikely that change comes swiftly enough to capture the $5 trillion in additional GDP that the Citigroup report calculates would be added to the U.S. economy over the next five years if all these racial gaps were to suddenly close, the Industry and Inclusion initiative works to enhance the paradigm shift needed to hasten this outcome.

diversity, equity, inclusion, manufacturing