Diverse talent needed

Taffye Benson-Clayton

In April, as I discussed issues of workforce diversity with corporate and nonprofit executives and diversity thought leaders from around the world, an ironic wake-up call came in the midst of our discussion.

At a conference under the leadership of Johnetta Cole, founder of the Chief Diversity Officers Forum and former president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C, we analyzed the state of American workforce talent in the global marketplace.

Last year, we began developing pipeline strategies designed to have greater impact on American students from pre-school through undergraduate education.

Our focus on pipeline development emerged as a result of common needs expressed by chief executive and diversity officers for a future pipeline of diverse talent to address projected workforce demands.

The wake-up call came from a report issued by America’s Promise Alliance, which showed 50 of the largest cities in the U.S. registering high-school graduation rates below 50 percent.

The findings intensify projected challenges with the cultivation and recruitment of diverse talent.

Similarly, a few weeks earlier, we learned at East Carolina University of indicators that suggest other countries would outpace the U.S. in key areas impacting marketplace competition.

To prepare our students for future competition, we must consider requiring multiple language proficiencies, redesigning curricula to increase competencies in science, math, technology, engineering, critical thinking and writing, and providing authentic opportunities for academic experiences between North Carolina students and students abroad through classroom technology.

Opportunities to learn and grow in global competency areas should be prominent in the daily educational experiences and supplemental enrichment experiences of all

Agencies in the nonprofit sector that are focused on education should find opportunities to lead efforts in this area.

Mastering global competencies and developing viable pipelines for diverse workforce talent are interconnected imperatives for our future.

These imperatives become more salient against a national backdrop of declining high-school graduation rates in major cities and a statewide backdrop of educational
disparities between urban high growth areas and rural, economically depressed communities.

Public education is a critical factor in global competitiveness, and our national, state and local leaders are wise to ensure that continuing to improve it is a top priority.

Taffye Benson-Clayton, assistant to the provost and university equity officer at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., is a 1997-99 William C. Friday Fellows of the Wildacres Leadership Initiative in Durham, N.C

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