The first day of Black History Month coincided with the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report. There was an uptick in the overall unemployment rate from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent.
There was a slight dip in the black unemployment rate from 14.0 percent in December to 13.8 percent in January. Still, the black jobless rate is nearly twice that of white workers.
Given the impact of disruptive technologies in both the public and private sectors, the black employment picture will remain bleak if we don’t overcome the racial gap in STEM proficiency. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Yes, race matters. But for the jobs of the future, the lack of STEM-related skills will matter more.
As they say, you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. You know what the problem is. Be a part of the solution and get involved with Philly Phresh Start, a project to increase STEM literacy among underrepresented minorities.
During the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee convened a panel discussion on diversity in the technology sector, “African Americans: Joining the Leading Edge of the High Tech Boom.”
This first-ever CBC convening of tech entrepreneurs and thought leaders was designed to identify strategies to open up “a whole new area of job growth and wealth creation for our communities.” Jackson Lee said:
The whole industry has moved and the question is: Where are we? We have no time to wait.
Rep. Jared Polis, a co-founder of TechStars, sees opportunities in disruptive services and products. The value proposition is the new efficiency the idea introduces in the economy. But keep in mind investors fund the team not an idea. “They’re funding the team rather than a great idea because an idea can change depending on the market reaction.”
To be successful, you must know the language and culture of the industry. Polis said:
It’s a different language that these people speak. It’s the language of capital and entrepreneurship. You need to study the language so that you speak the language of venture capitalists.
That doesn’t mean you have to go to business school. In fact, most founders don’t. You must know the basic principles of finance, including your ABCs – Series A, Series B and Series C funding rounds.
You also must learn the culture. So mind your Ps and Qs and dress for success.
While networks matter, Polis observed:
It’s not an old boys’ network. It’s a young boys’ network. When you have a young boys’ network, it’s easier to break into…You still have to build the networks.
In his weekly address, President Obama called on Congress “to get its act together” and pass the American Jobs Act:
It’s been almost three weeks since I sent the American Jobs Act to Congress – three weeks since I sent them a bill that would put people back to work and put money in people’s pockets. And now I want it back. It is time for Congress to get its act together and pass this jobs bill so I can sign it into law.
A study by the Transportation Equity Network suggests that getting “construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges” will not help African Americans.
The report, “The Road to Good Jobs: Making Training Work,” will not be released until Tuesday, but the media advisory says all you need to know:
Most states are failing to boost job access to those hit hardest by the recession—minorities and women—in the multi-billion-dollar federal highway construction field.
The Road to Good Jobs: Making Training Work presents the first-ever compilation of data from all 50 states on their use of on-the-job-training and apprenticeship programs to boost job access for minorities and women in the federal highway construction field from 2008-10.
The study finds that most states are doing a poor job of using proven training programs to boost highway construction job access for minorities and women, though unemployment rates for minorities are nearly double those of whites, and female unemployment is ticking up while male unemployment is dropping.
I will blog about the forum on STEM education that I attended yesterday at the Brookings Institution, at which Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank unveiled a report, “Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM.”
But right now, I want to focus on a national initiative to stem the high school drop crisis among black boys, Too Important to Fail.
Tonight at 8:00 p.m. EDT, PBS will air Tavis Smiley Reports’ “Too Important to Fail,” an investigation of the root causes of education crisis.
Morgan is the CEO of Re-Vinyl, an interactive mobile app that contextualizes the music experience. His target market includes music lovers who want to kick it like back in the day when album covers were art and fans rocked to the music while reading liner notes.
Morgan was one of 14 founders who made their pitch for “dollar, dollar bills y’all” before a large audience of venture capitalists and angel investors. While some pitches were more convincing than others, they were all impressive.
That said, it was a bittersweet experience. But complaining about the lack of diversity is so Web 1.0.
Roosevelt advised folks to get in the arena and brush off those who criticize from the sidelines:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
To get in the arena, minority founders must apply to DreamIt and other incubators.
Indeed, Bookspan talked about the “power of collaboration.” He said entrepreneurs should “iterate, launch, learn.” Then repeat. It’s about people, market and ideas.
Sure, ideas without finance don’t stand a chance. But to get some “dollar, dollar bills,” founders should focus on assembling their team and identifying their market.
Bookspan said DreamIt’s bottom line is whether they can make a meaningful difference with the companies they accept into the program.
There’s little doubt DreamIt will make a meaningful difference for the five minority-led startups selected to participate in the Comcast Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program. They will get their turn on the mic on December 7 during Demo Day Philadelphia 2011.
But right now, it’s about an Empire State of Mind.