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Executive Summary

Racial and class employment disparities in Minnesota are well-documented. For instance, recent research compiled by Wilder Research in the Minnesota Compass project shows that while the Twin Cities ranks number one among America's largest metropolitan areas in terms of overall employment participation, it consistently ranks among the last in terms of racial disparities in that same measure. What role does the state's public workforce system have in address these disparities?

Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) staff have begun planning for a system-wide approach to addressing racial and class employment disparities. In addition to increasing the transparency of DEED's data on adult workforce development disparities, the intent of this report is to synthesize previous policy recommendations with views from the field to help inform the current conversation around DEED's role in promoting employment equity.

This report provides summary data that confirms racial and class employment disparities exist among participants in workforce development programs administered by DEED and targeted to low-income and recently laid-off adults. It also provides rates of common barriers to employment-including low educational attainment, criminal background, limited work experience, and limited English skills-by race and class. Unsurprisingly, rates can differ greatly by race and class.

A survey of counselors and interviews with program managers from across the state add context to this administrative data and provide insight into how our workforce system currently addresses employment barriers and how DEED can better support their work to address disparities. Complete summary results from this project's survey of counselors and interviews with program managers are available as a companion to this report.

Highlighted recommendations from the report include serving people of color more intentionally, engaging with employers more intentionally around how to successfully employ individuals with barriers, and finding performance solutions to serving participants with barriers. However, this report is not intended to be the final word on workforce development disparities. Readers are encouraged to submit comments on the report to add perspectives to this conversation and guide future research.

As the conclusion of the report states: "Currently, approaches to addressing disparities vary across service areas and across providers. Although this can be messy and hard to communicate, this diversity of approaches may be a strength of our workforce development system worth retaining even as DEED takes on a more prominent role."

The strength of this conversation, too, rests on a diversity of stakeholders sharing their perspectives.

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