In his State of the Urban League Address, NUL President Marc H. Morial observed:
Next month – on Aug. 28 – will be 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, organized in part by our own Whitney M. Young, Jr., and challenged this nation to live up to the founding ideals that were conceived in Philadelphia and engraved in that Liberty Bell.
The events, both good and bad, of 1963, awakened the conscience of this nation and sped up the wheels of progress. I mention these events, not to elicit tears or sadness, but to remind you of both the sacrifices and the progress that have been made over the past 50 years. These events directly led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Thank God, things ain’t what they used to be. As Morial noted:
Fifty years ago, 75% of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85% of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more blacks enrolled, and five times as many blacks hold a college degree.
As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Urban League and The Memorial Foundation will convene Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream “to celebrate, renew our commitment, and equip young leaders to be drum majors into the future.”
A new report by the Brookings Institution found that STEM is, well, everywhere. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
Some key findings:
Workers in STEM fields play a direct role in driving economic growth. And it’s not just jobs in the innovation economy. As of 2011, 26 million U.S. jobs require a high level of knowledge in any one STEM field. The “hidden” STEM economy represents 20 percent of all jobs.
Half of all STEM jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree, and these jobs pay $53,000 on average.
Half of all STEM jobs are in manufacturing, health care, or construction industries.
Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations constitute 12 percent of all STEM jobs, one of the largest occupational categories. Other blue-collar or technical jobs in fields such as construction and production also frequently demand STEM knowledge.
If you’re like most Americans, you might be asking yourself: “What is infrastructure?” Infrastructure is the foundation of our economy. It includes highways, public transit and water systems, airports and railroads. Or as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told his then eight-year-old son: “It’s what Daddy blows up in movies.”
Edward Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, shared that story at a forum of regional leaders convened by Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, “Philadelphia’s Infrastructure: A Pathway to Jobs, Economic Development and Sustainability.”
As a District Councilman, I recognize that we need jobs. Investing in our road, bridges and alternative energy sources should be used to stimulate job creation and economic development, not only in Philadelphia but in the surrounding region.
One of those alternative energy sources – shale gas – is powering economic growth and America’s energy independence. A report by IHS found that unconventional gas development contributed economic activity of over $14 billion in Pennsylvania in 2012. The shale gas revolution directly and indirectly supported over 100,000 jobs. That number is projected to double by 2020.
Western Pennsylvania is the sweet spot for the Marcellus Shale formation. As a longtime advocate for minority-owned business enterprises, I was heartened by Sen. Anthony Williams’ commitment to ensuring a broad-based economic benefit:
It’s not just about western Pennsylvania. It’s about all of Pennsylvania… We in Philadelphia need to be in the middle of this conversation.
Fortunately the Oil and Gas Act, commonly referred to as Act 13, includes a provision to foster that conversation. Section 2316 provides:
(a) Requirement: Producers shall provide maximum practicable contracting opportunities for diverse small businesses, including minority-owned business enterprises, women-owned business enterprises and veteran-owned businesses.
(b) Duties – Producers shall do all of the following:
(1) Maintain a policy prohibiting discrimination in employment and contracting based on gender, race, creed or color.
(2) Use the database available on the Internet website of the Department of General Services to identify certified diverse small businesses, including minority-owned business enterprises, women-owned business enterprises and veteran-owned businesses, as potential contractors, subcontractors and supplies for opportunities related to unconventional natural gas extraction.
(3) Respond to the survey under subsection (c) within 90 days.
(c) Survey – Within one year of the effective date of this section, the Department of General Services shall send all producers a survey to report the producers’ efforts to provide maximum practicable contracting opportunities related to unconventional gas extraction for diverse, small business participation.
It’s a truism that we manage what we measure. But somehow the Department of General Services managed to miss the Feb. 13, 2013, deadline for sending the survey.
Williams promised to fix that. He is a member of the State Government Committee to which DGS must submit an annual report on diverse small business participation. He will ask members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus to sign a joint letter to DGS to find out when the survey will be sent.
So where do we go from here? Johnson made it clear this was not a one-off event; rather, it was the 1st annual infrastructure forum. He plans to establish an Infrastructure Working Group to develop a long-term strategy to promote job creation and economic development.
For more information, contact Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office at (215) 686-3412.
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.