Stadium offers chance for workforce development

| July 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

A new Vikings stadium seems a given, although it doesn’t mean that the political controversy is over. Any number of issues will no doubt arise over the exact land use and other structural components of the building. However, I believe that there is also a bright spot on the horizon for job creation and workforce development.

The new stadium will not be built until 2014. This gives interested parties plenty of time to see how building it can reduce the racial gap in employment that is growing in Minnesota.

According to the Jobs Now Coalition, comprised of 100 workforce development groups, “Black workers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area continue to live with an unemployment rate more than three times higher than whites. The disparity is greater here than in any of the other 18 metro areas studied across the nation.”

Multiple reasons

In an article published by Minnesota Public Radio, the reasons for this disparity cannot just be put at the feet of the recent recession. Instead, those who have studied this gap point “to a combination of factors that almost always included four issues: the relatively small size of the state’s minority population, limited networks to help minorities find jobs, a lack of employment programs targeted at communities of color, and one of the worst educational achievement gaps in the country.”

This disparity has persisted in recent years. As of 2011, the latest data available, the black unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 3.3 times that of whites, compared to 3.1 in 2009.

These glaring statistics should be a rallying cry for a public-private partnership that invests in workforce development and educational strategies that will begin to reduce this gap.

It seems like smart business sense to take intentional steps now to reduce disparities in terms of employment, education and housing that, if left unattended, will make the region unsustainable and uncompetitive in the long term.

As the city of Minneapolis and the Vikings begin to implement a plan for building the stadium and hiring staff to work on it once it is built, all interested parties have a  chance to create opportunity and reduce poverty in the metro area.

This won’t happen by accident; it will have to be an intentional and sustained strategy guiding the contracts, outreach and training, and investment in human capital.

Increasing participation

There are many smart community groups, developers and training gurus in the Twin Cities that could be catalysts for change if there is both the private and public will to engage in this investment. Efforts that increase participation in the economy and broaden the base of stakeholders are being championed by the HIRE coalition in its workforce development strategies with the Minneapolis City Council.

Time is a wasting; before you know it, the new stadium will welcome its first fans. If we can use this opportunity to strengthen the economic base, not just for the owners and the players but for the whole community, especially those currently at a decided disadvantage, some of the naysayers might even believe that this project was worthy of public monies.

Kathy Tomlin is director of Cath­olic Charities’ Office for Social Justice.

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Category: Faith and Justice