The Hispanic Workforce Is Rising, but Lack of Education Still Holds These Workers Back

The Department of Labor (DOL) released on March 31 its report on the Hispanic workforce, which found a marked increase in the number of working Latinos across the country.

Hispanics, said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in a press conference call on March 31 to discuss the report’s findings, currently represent 15% of the U.S. workforce and that percentage is slated to increase further by 2018, particularly in the private sector, which employs more Latinos than the public sector. In fact, the Hispanic small business sector is the fastest growing small business sector in the country, Solis said, and currently, 6.3% Hispanics are self-employed.

At the same time, though, the Hispanic community-- which according to the most recent census, stood at 50.5 million--continues to be plagued with the same issues that have dogged it for years. The Obama administration has taken bold steps to put people back to work after one of the worst recessions on record, Solis said, and Latinos have also benefited from the various measures that have been enacted to encourage employment in various sectors of the economy.

But the lack of educated, qualified Hispanics is still a big issue and one that acts as a barrier to greater employment opportunities for the Latino community, because Latinos are still less likely to have college degrees than Whites and African-Americans, and as such, the community faces a real lag in educational attainment overall. The “good jobs” are in areas that require both skills and qualifications in subjects like engineering and math, Solis said, and all research shows that the “good jobs” do need college degrees.

Encouraging education, therefore, is one of the main challenges for the Hispanic community. Latinos are key to the labor force of the United States, said Cecila Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, who was also on the press call, and given that the number of Hispanics in the U.S. will continue to increase, making sure this community is a part of the vision that the President and the current administration has for this country is key.

Greater participation by Hispanics in the workforce can only come about if education levels increase, Munoz said, and Hispanics need to see that the jobs of the future are in areas like high technology and renewable energy--areas that go hand-in-glove with the progress of the nation.

“We need Latinos to know that this is where the jobs are,” she said, and this message needs to get across from elementary school itself, since it is only through pushing education as a top priority that the Hispanic community can get ahead. 

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