CLEVELAND — As Northeast Ohio works to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, a new report out Monday shows we cannot do it if we're not bringing everyone along—and people have already been left behind.
Team NEO focuses on economic development in Northeast Ohio. For years, they’ve highlighted the importance of our region’s three big industries: manufacturing, health care and IT, and the jobs they provide that drive our economy.
However, there's a problem. Team NEO's new report called “Misaligned Opportunities: How Racial Inequities Lead to Skills Gaps" revealed some are being left out of the top jobs in the region.
"We looked at the top 20 in-demand occupations last year," said Jacob Duritsky, VP of strategy and research at Team NEO. "Those are the 20 best jobs in the region. They pay family-sustaining wages and there's a huge demand for them. Essentially, think of it in this way; if you have the skills aligned with one of these jobs, you can get a job today even in a COVID-19 crisis, in most cases. "In 19 of those 20, minorities were underrepresented relative to the percent of their population overall. So, 95% of the most in-demand occupations are underrepresented."
The numbers in the report are pre-pandemic, but still relevant says Duritsky.
- White unemployment in NEO: 5%
- Black unemployment in NEO: 12%
- Hispanic unemployment in NEO: 10%
- White median household income: $55,687
- Black median household income: $30,403
- Hispanic median household income: $44,356
And, a post-secondary degree or certificate for in-demand industries combined: 71% going to White grads and 11% to Black graduates.
"I think the fact that we're talking about these things publicly on TV and in more rooms, and we're having more conversations, is a step in the right direction," said Danielle Sydnor with the Cuyahoga County Equity Task Force. "For years it was covered up in other things about why we had high unemployment or why you had such a high level of income disparity. Some of the things that I see that are actually going to lead toward change are some of our local grassroots organizations that are being invited to the table more to help lead ideas around implementation, and strategies that are more inclusive. Having inclusivity and having diversity and racial equity built into the beginning of a strategy ensures that it doesn't become an afterthought."
The report points to several systemic issues driving the divide, including equity in education.
Duritsky says they're teaming up with Delta Dental to take the report into schools, to connect kids to the numbers, careers and pathways.
The skills gap is seen across the board but much more pronounced in communities of color.
Duritsky and Sydnor say we have to fix it to make our region equitable and to ensure its future.
"We have to connect people here to opportunity in the labor market if we want to see our economy grow and thrive because we just simply don't have the number of people here, right now, qualified to fill all the job openings we have right now," said Duritsky.
"I believe that Cleveland has been a special place for a long time; people migrated from the south during the Great Migration to come work, and they came because they felt like they were going to have opportunity," said Sydnor. "We cannot advance as a region, just like we couldn't then, we cannot advance as a region if we didn't have the population increase coming from the south during the times of the Great Migration. Cleveland struggles with population, so the only way we're going to be able to attract talent is if people see us as a city where everybody has a chance to not just survive but thrive. I think our leadership has to have that as our guiding star."
This story is part of The Rebound: Northeast Ohio, News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:
Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.
Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.
Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.
Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.