Last week we explored the need to reverse the trend of Black manufacturing employment. Another segment of the population that needs better job opportunities is the Hispanic community. Their contribution to our economy has grown from 10.7 million workers in 1990 to 29 million in 2020, with a projected growth of 35.9 million in 2030. The top three industry occupations are 43% in farming, fishing, and forestry; 37.9% in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; and 35.7% in construction and extraction per the U.S. Department of Labor. It is not surprising to most who often see them working lower-wage and lower-skill positions. Those individuals experience more significant financial harm when the economy declines, as recently seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pew Resource Center found that 27.6 million immigrant workers made up 17.1% of the workforce in 2014. Of that 17.1%, about 12.1% were legally in the U.S., with 5% on overstayed visas or without legal permission. The "private households" industry employed nearly 1 million workers, with 45% from immigrant populations, of which there were slightly more legal than unauthorized workers.
Some may worry that if we improve job opportunities for this segment of our population, they may take our jobs. A study of the impact of migrants on employment opportunities shared several pros:
• Immigrant entrepreneurs or self-employed directly create new jobs.
• Those that are innovators create indirect employment opportunities that lead to long-term growth.
• New immigrants keep markets efficient by filling labor shortages.
• Those with technology skills contribute to adaption
• Firms can expand through immigrants raising the demand that results in additional hiring.
At the same time, there are some potential cons:
• While immigrants can cause short-term competition for jobs, the effect is negligible.
• These individuals become trapped in undesirable jobs when only used to supplement high-skilled native workers.
• Capital upgrades are impeded by those using low-skilled immigrant labor.
• Companies that depend on low-cost labor may need to outsource jobs if immigrant workers become unavailable
• Production may increase, but productivity can languish
Ultimately the data showed that the positive impact of immigrants far exceeded any adverse effect from their employment.
"The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize."—Shigeo Shingo
Taiichi Ohno and Shingo identified seven types of waste when developing the Toyota Production System. Later was the addition of the eighth waste of unused talent. I argue we generally do not recognize the potential of the Hispanic population to play an essential role in helping to close the manufacturing employment gap at all levels of plant operations. A Fiscal Policy Institute study found that 15% of refugees who entered the manufacturing sector stayed in those jobs for a more extended time than other workers. In addition, the average turnover of 4% for refugees was much lower than the 11% for all employees. The result is a significant savings of $5,200 per year for full-time workers earning $13 an hour on the shallow end of manufacturing pay in the Shenandoah Valley. However, only a tiny portion of the savings are necessary to fill the needs of interpreters, transportation, and other support services to integrate refugees into the workplace.
The Economic Policy Institute compared 2017 wage, benefit, and compensation data for workers in manufacturing vs. the private sector. The manufacturing hourly wage was $30.52, benefits at $9.14, and total compensation was $39.66. The full payment was 19.8% higher than the $33.11 hourly total for the private sector. Developing additional targeted opportunities for Hispanics to work in this higher-paying sector while providing education support can increase job security and reduce the racial gaps.
As stated in an earlier blog post, those in the manufacturing sector looking for a noble purpose can help our Hispanic neighbors to build more secure employment futures. A business interested in developing opportunities for those historically disenfranchised will first need to create a trust climate. The firm's representatives must work with the wisdom leaders to build an employment pathway for the various populations. In some cases, there will be a need to show evidence that theirs is a workplace committed to legitimate diversity and inclusion. In others, there will be a need to work with individuals at the Department of Labor to build a Labor Certification Program that will provide a legal pathway to temporary and permanent job opportunities for Hispanics. All recruited potential employees will need to see that paid training and education are available to advance them to higher-skilled positions with stable employment at higher pay levels.
As the manufacturing industry continues to explore ways to close the employment gap, a partial solution is to embrace the Hispanic population. The initial extra work to help some gain legal immigration status or learn to speak English will be a worthwhile investment to gain a workforce that will be respectful and valuable contributors that will stay with the company.
Individuals interested in attracting l Latino workers can begin by reviewing the 5 Ways Employers Can Attract and Retain Latino Millennials. The document shares key findings and recommendations for employers interested in employing individuals with desirable employee attributes.
I am grateful to my ancestors, who immigrated to the U.S., leading to a better life for my family and me. But unfortunately, they faced similar challenges to those of our Hispanic population. I hope we can collectively embrace providing those who have more recently come to our country a better opportunity by becoming a part of the manufacturing gap employment solution.
Next week's blog will focus on making the manufacturing industry more attractive to potential Hispanic employees. Establishing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization is crucial to the humanist manufacturing framework.
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Cover Image Credit: Farmworker Justice