All Americans share an aspiration for economic opportunity, yet there is a persistent, intergenerational opportunity gap that prevents millions of Black individuals from having meaningful access to the American dream. We are at a pivotal moment where we need to do more to create greater and more equitable access to economic opportunities.
Last summer, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, several CEOs from America’s leading companies came together to determine how the private sector could help eliminate this opportunity gap. OneTen was founded with a mission to combine the power of Black talent, companies like Wells Fargo, and talent developers to prepare, train, hire, and advance one million Black individuals who do not have a four-year degree into family-sustaining jobs over the next 10 years.
As a coalition, we are taking action to make a meaningful, measurable, and lasting impact and create a more equitable society. When we look at the racial wealth gap in America, we see that white families in the U.S. have more than 10 times the wealth possessed by Black families. Lack of access to quality jobs is a potent contributor to this wealth disparity. If you look at jobs in our country that pay $60,000 and above, you find 79% of those jobs, on paper, require a four-year degree. If you look at jobs that pay $40,000 and above, on paper, 71% require a four-year degree. If you look at Black talent ages 25 and above, 76% do not have a four-year degree. The current hiring and advancement ecosystem is ultimately not expanding opportunity and upward mobility across a diversity of talent cohorts.
This is why we are inviting and encouraging companies to shift to a skills-first model. To open the opportunity pipeline, we need to think differently about talent. An explicit four-year college degree requirement is a barrier for many Black people and other individuals who often do not have the financial means to pursue one. OneTen coalition members are reviewing their hiring practices in several ways, including looking at existing jobs within their company and determining which roles actually need a four-year degree to acquire the skills necessary to be successful. And our companies are discerning and understanding multiple pathways a worker may acquire the relevant skills for a job or promotion. Taking this approach is not only better for business (larger talent pool, higher retention, lower cost to hire, and better performance), but also positions us to achieve greater equity and inclusion in the long run.
This is not an effort to discourage four-year degrees, but rather, expand the pathways to job opportunities and career advancement. To use myself as an example, I have a B.A. in political science. There is no way this makes me more qualified to do a computer-based job than another candidate who does not have a four-year degree but has done an intensive, eight-week boot camp in preparation for that exact position. More broadly, this is an effort to say when we’re hiring and advancing talent, we should be looking at the skills necessary to do it successfully rather than solely credentials.