Communities of Color in the Workforce

Today’s blog continues our four-part series that looks into cultural changes in the new workforce. Today, we discuss Communities of Color. Enjoy!

Has anyone read the outstanding series in the New York Times titled ‘1619”?  The Times uses that date to mark when the first slaves were captured by Dutch traders from Spanish slavers, and sold at Jamestown for food and provisions.  It is a fascinating series, documenting the history of our great nation, warts and all, and how we have dealt with people of African descent. Just as important, it gives insights into how our society’s attitudes towards not just them, but other people of color have been codified and ingrained in our society.

This blog post is not here to argue the merits of the case or the counter arguments; my stance has always been that there is no ‘African American” history, there was only an American history which has shaped the world we all live in for better or worse, depending on the color of your skin.  Centuries of slavery, Jim Crow laws, redlining, and other practices designed to maintain the status quo established by slavery and ratified by the early constitution (before the 14th amendment) have created a huge disparity in both wealth and opportunity.  This is the reality people of color, not just African Americans, live in.

Instead, I wanted to discuss the other side of the reality we live in; our workforce shortage.  The current workforce crisis presents a myriad of opportunities for communities of color to participate in the “American Dream”.  I’ve always considered that dream to be having a job that pays enough to buy a home, start a savings account, and look towards accumulating wealth which can be passed down to your children. In industries from Healthcare to Advanced Manufacturing, there are job openings which can help communities of color achieve that dream.  With almost full employment, and the retiring Baby Boomer generation, there are 7.6 million unfilled jobs in the United States, with only 6.5 million job seekers!* Anyone who is not figuring out how to attract, engage, and intentionally bring skilled training opportunities to communities of color are missing the boat; this is a largely untapped resource.

The leadership in our industrial sectors and economic development entities must use strategies which understand and respect the unique cultures which communities of color have developed.  For some of you, this is a challenge. If your first “look’ has always been towards hiring a white male, how do you gain the competencies to engage these communities of color in a meaningful way? Many of the established workforce development programs face the same hurdle; they see communities of color, and only see the barriers that they live with on a daily basis.  The VALL Group sees the potential in these communities, and we are ready to help you realize that potential as well. For more information on how to develop proven programs that work within these communities, you need to contact us at the VALL Group.  

The VALL Group specializes in assisting workforce development boards, WIOA programs and operators, economic development, community based organizations, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, and private industry in strategic and comprehensive workforce development plans. For more information or to connect with the team, please visit www.thevallgroup.com or email info@thevallgroup.com.

*Sourced from https://www.vox.com/2019/3/18/18270916/labor-shortage-workers-us

The Misconceptions of Generation Z Workers in the Workplace

Today’s blog continues our four-part series that looks into cultural changes in the new workforce. Today, we tackle Generation Z. Enjoy! 

Stop me if you’ve been in a similar situation: 

You’re at an event, and the conversation quickly dovetails into a discussion on employees in the workplace. Someone brings up the topic of younger workers, and the conversation quickly turns negative: 

Entitled. Lazy. Disconnected with the job. 

Everyone throws their hands up in the air, blaming society, parents, or schools for the reason younger workers can’t get their faces out of their phones. Can’t someone just make these youth show up to work on time? 

Generation Z, the nickname given to the group of individuals born after 1995, represents the newest generation to the workforce*. It’s oldest member is 23, and this generation has a reputation similar to the millennial age group, as seen above. But what forces really drive Generation Z in the workforce? 

Technology: Welcome to the world of digital natives. Generation Z has grown up with technology and is comfortable using devices and multiple social media platforms. Technology drives their decision-making, as this generation is thoughtful and pragmatic when spending money. Despite claims that this technology makes this generation tend to dislike human interaction, research suggests the opposite. Generation Z’s see technology as as asset, and enjoy interpersonal communications. 

Work-life balance: Like its slightly older sibling, the Millennials, Generation Z seeks work-life balance. They’ve grown up watching their parents struggle through the Great Recession, so they understand the need to work and save, but they also want to go home at the end of the day leaving work behind. They also need to feel like they are part of the team, understand why decisions are being made, and look to companies to provide professional development and retraining opportunities. 

Authenticity: Generation Z has grown up in an onslaught of visual targeted marketing. Because of this, Gen Z react to leadership within companies that are truthful and genuinely honest. Connecting with Gen Z means becoming familiar with the causes and activities that drive them, and providing them access and availability to be involved (see above, work-life balance). Strong working partnerships are the key to this generation. 

Are you interested in learning how to engage with Generation Z for your workforce? We’d love to connect with you on this important topic. Contact me at vic@thevallgroup.com for more information. 

The VALL Group specializes in assisting workforce development boards, WIOA programs and operators, economic development, community based organizations, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, and private industry in strategic and comprehensive 

workforce development plans. For more information or to connect with the team, please visit www.thevallgroup.com or email info@thevallgroup.com. 

*https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/01/61-million-gen-zers-about-to-enter-us-workforce-and-change -it.html 

Cultural Changes in the New Workforce


Today’s blog begins our first of a four-part series that looks into cultural changes in the new workforce.

Reentrants or returning citizens, is the term used to describe those who are leaving the criminal justice system and returning to their communities.  In the United States, this number has been estimated at 600,000 annually*.  In an era of almost full employment, you would think that this would be the perfect opportunity to give people who made a mistake, paid their dues to society, and want to restart their life a chance.  This should be a ‘no-brainer”, people who need a job balanced with millions of unfilled jobs across the nation–unfortunately it’s not that simple.

During my time in the Navy we had our own culture; with our own unique language.  A wall was a “bulkhead”, the floor was the ‘deck”, and a door was a “hatch”.  We had certain ways of dress and expectations that we all abided by.  It worked for us because everyone knew and understood where everyone else was coming from.  If you had dropped a civilian in the middle of that, he/she would probably think we were speaking a foreign language!

In speaking with many reentrants, they talk about the culture shock they face when they return to society. Technology, family relationships, and cultural norms have always been in a constant state of change.  The tools and norms they had to adopt while incarcerated are vastly different from the norms of everyday life.  We often fail to account for this when we develop workforce training programs to help reentrants.

So is it really too far-fetched to understand that reentrants have lived within a very different culture?  The challenge too many workforce programs have is that they completely ignore that fact.  We spend millions giving reentrants (and other hard to serve people) training in needed occupations without factoring in the cultural differences. Competencies like how to resolve conflict, time management, and teamwork are the result of their cultural experience and are often at odds with what the expectations of the workplace are.  This results in millions of dollars in wasted training, at a time when our workforce needs “all hands on deck.”

Are you working with reentrants and looking for innovative ways of providing cultural competencies towards workplace success? Contact me at vic@thevallgroup.com for more information.

The VALL Group specializes in assisting workforce development boards, WIOA programs and operators, economic development, community based organizations, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, and private industry in strategic and comprehensive workforce development plans. For more information or to connect with the team, please visit www.thevallgroup.com or email info@thevallgroup.com.

*Sourced from a 2018 University of Maryland study on “Residential Relocation and Recidivism”



The New Face of Workforce Development

There’s an old Chinese curse that goes ‘may you live in interesting times.” Well- these times are certainly interesting! Where you are sitting on the fence doesn’t matter. Whether you are an employer looking for talent, a workforce development leader trying find the solution for your business partners, or training providers who are struggling to develop programs and training, we’re all living in interesting times indeed.

I cannot think of another time when there was such an imbalance in the normal equation of people needing jobs and the availability of jobs. There is such a shortage of talent that I have heard employers, desperate to keep production going, say things like “if they can fog a mirror, they’re hired!” The wave of baby boomers retiring, which every industry is now dealing with, is hammering away at the institutional legs of workforce development. This phenomenon has altered the way in which we view training, hiring, retaining and succession planning.

How we got here is interesting, because there were many pathways leading to this moment. I read a journal recently that said 66% of all jobs require less than a four year degree.* Despite that, the number of four-year college programs have grown, and parents continue to hold to the belief that a four year college degree is the best path forward for their kids. Additionally, we (as a collective) have not emphasized diversity and inclusion over the years, and as the demographics have shifted we find ourselves struggling to connect with a new norm; communities of color, women, reentrants, and other underserved groups are where the next pool of talent rests.

This is where the challenge lies for our entire economy- how do we change our focus to capture this unique opportunity which means more people invited to participate? Our traditional methods of finding and developing talent generally don’t “fit” the new pathways for talent that we have to explore. These groups talk a different language (in some cases literally and figuratively), have different cultural expectations, and bring diverse talents to our workforce. Unfortunately, across our various workforce programs nation-wide, we’re still offering the same types of career readiness and training we offered 15 years ago!

This is the reason that my partner and I, Walter Dorsey, have started The VALL Group. With over 50 years of workforce development experience, our consulting firm focuses on innovative strategies to help Workforce Development Boards, Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) program operators, Community Colleges, K-12 systems, and the various business sectors address their workforce and career education challenges. We offer proven strategies to engage our communities and create training programs that focus on designing and supporting innovation. The VALL Group is equipped to answer some of your most difficult workforce challenges. I am proud to direct you to our new website: www.thevallgroup.com, where you can find more information about the services that we can offer to you and your organization. Additionally, you can reach me at vic@thevallgroup.com or info@thevallgroup.com.

*Sourced from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce

Walter C. Dorsey

Walter Dorsey, retired Director of the Region Q Workforce Development Board, worked in the Employment and Training/Workforce Development field in Northeastern NC for over thirty-eight years. His positions included Employment Interviewer, Rural Manpower Representative, Branch Office Manager, Labor Market Analyst, Manpower Programs Regional Representative, JTPA Programs Operation Manager, and seventeen years as the WDB Director.   

Mr. Dorsey served five years as President of the NC Workforce Development Board Directors Council and also served as the southeastern states representative (NC, SC, GA, FL, TN, KY, AL) on the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) Board of Directors.

During his tenure as the Region Q WDB Director, Mr. Dorsey presented workshops on workforce development issues and innovative program designs at the national, regional, state, and local levels.

Prior to and continuing after retirement, he has served five years as Chairman of the Northeast NC Career Pathways Partnership.

Walter’s specialties include WIB structure and effectiveness, WIOA, program design, program implementation, attainment of performance standards, and information and analysis.

Victor Rodgers

Victor Rodgers serves as Associate Provost for Workforce Development at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC).  In this position, Mr. Rodgers oversees all departments under workforce development to include healthcare, manufacturing, public safety center, and corporate and business services.  The division has been able to add innovative programs such as the S.T.E.P. Academy, Brewing Science Certificate, and Industrial Manufacturing Technician and Hospitality apprenticeships.  

Previously, he was the assistant director for continuing education and workforce development at Guam Community College (GCC).  Prior to GCC, Victor held the position of Direct Services Director of the Mid-East Commission, where he was responsible for managing workforce investment programs in Beaufort County, NC, and Older Worker retraining programs in an additional 23 counties. Victor, a U.S. Navy veteran, also served as a manager and HR specialist focused on training and professional development activities earning a prestigious award for excellence in human resource programming.

A native of New York who grew up in North Carolina, Victor earned a master’s degree in business administration and a master of arts in business communications and holds a bachelor of science in human resources management.