African-American youth, like most people in this country, no matter their background, are taught from a young age that graduating from college is the first major benchmark of success. But college isn't for everyone and many of the nation's fastest growing job sectors don't require a four-year degree. With an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent, they must consider all the options.
Senior White House economist Jared Bernstein, speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference panel on unemployment in the African-American community, said that many of the occupations that will be adding the most jobs in the next ten years don't require a college degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they include: registered nurse, retail sales person, home health and personal care aides, tractor-trailer drivers, office clerks, food prep, customer service, post-secondary teachers, nurses aides and elementary school teachers and construction laborers.
"That should not dissuade anyone who is capable of realizing their intellectual, educational, spiritual potential from going as far as they can in school and college and beyond," he said. "If someone is blocked from realizing their intellectual potential because they couldn't access or complete school, that is a national tragedy."
Rev. Wendell Anthony recalled a time when his Detroit church was undergoing some construction renovations by older workers who were making $40-$45 per hour. After asking why there weren't any young guys on the crew, he was told that they weren't interested in those kinds of jobs.
But he also lamented the fact that many local governments aren't funding vocational schools that would prepare young people for jobs that will earn them good wages in such industries as construction and culinary arts. He said that it's important that whites, who are also feeling the economic crunch, and African-Americans must form coalitions to get the necessary resources.
"This problem is not insurmountable," he said.
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(Photo: Todd Warnock / Getty Images)