Unemployment has crippled the economic standing of Americans across racial and economic lines, but it is nothing new in the black community. Since 1972, the New America Media reports that African American unemployment has surpassed whites by about 2-1, despite economic and education status. In addition, African Americans are more likely to be underemployed or to have given up looking for work at 22 percent. It’s a consistent problem that many hope will be alleviated soon in the upcoming years with the growth of jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to manifest over the next decade.
But in what industries will blacks be able to secure these jobs? The New America Media reports that there will be about 5.6 million additional jobs in the health and social-assistance industry which is expected to boost African American employment. Still, jobs in the more lucrative and fast-growing industries such as professional, scientific and technical services is projected to continue to allude African Americans.
Student programs are one solution to this problem. James McKissic works with the Chattanooga, Tenn. affiliate of the National Urban League and is helping to ensure that the youth are better prepared to take on these lucrative and higher education based positions. As the affiliate’s chief operating officer, he’s helped to start a program designed to instill interest in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program has seen over 600 student participants so far.
“A lot of the students before the program came felt left out because they weren’t athletes, they weren’t jocks, they weren’t cheerleaders,” McKissic said to New America Media.
The program started as a two-week summer program in 2007, but has since transformed into a six-month after-school program for students in sixth through eighth grades.
“People from Chattanooga and young people who are living and growing up and learning here, we want them to be able to take advantage of those types of jobs,” McKissic said. “And that’s why we’re offering this to our students because we know that it leads to a stable foundation later in life.”