Developing a Post-COVID Workforce | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

COVID-19’s Impact on Our Regional Workforce—and Where We Go from Here

Investing in workforce development programs can get North Texas back on track.

*Edited October 8, 2021 to reflect current events

As COVID-19 continues to impact North Texas, many of the federal programs put in place during the height of the pandemic are quickly coming to an end. For example, most Texans who were accessing unemployment benefits lost that coverage early in the summer. And the Supreme Court recently ended the federal eviction moratorium.

As these supportive programs end, more North Texans are left without an important safety net—even as COVID-19 continues to impact child care and school and keep many adults from fully returning to work.

One thing is certain: The pandemic has changed the work landscape in North Texas, perhaps forever. As families strive to move on from the instability of the last 18 months, we as a community must focus on workforce development solutions and investment that will make it possible for our neighbors to find good-paying work, both now and in the years to come.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we understand that a stable income is vital for a secure, successful life. Along with education and health, it’s one of the building blocks of opportunity. As our region continues to deal with the effects of the ongoing pandemic, we’re leading a movement to create workforce and financial opportunities for everyone in North Texas.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at some of the work-related challenges our neighbors are facing as a result of COVID-19, as well as how United Way of Metropolitan Dallas enables North Texans to get and keep jobs that will set them up for long-term success.

The Pandemic Hit Our Workforce Hard

Before COVID-19, our region was operating at nearly full employment, explains Andrea Glispie, senior director of career pathways at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

“In February of 2020, we had historically low unemployment,” Glispie said. “Our economy was firing on all cylinders. The Great Recession didn’t affect DFW as badly as other parts of the country.”

When the pandemic hit, local unemployment rose rapidly, hitting a peak of 13.5% in April 2020. Glispie explains that women and people of color were disproportionately impacted in those early months, because they tend to work in industries and jobs that were hit the hardest, such as food service and hospitality. Another factor was child care: When schools and daycare centers closed, women were most often the ones to leave the workforce in order to stay home, care for the kids and help with remote learning.

That loss of income was devastating for many families, as they struggled to pay for groceries and bills. The job losses also led to a deepening of our region’s long-standing housing crisis. Suddenly, thousands of renters who were already overburdened by housing costs faced the threat of eviction.

“Clearly we face an affordability crisis but it’s particularly acute as we look at Black and Latinx workers who are renters,” Glispie said. “Over half of Black renters, and almost half of Latinx workers are spending more than 30% of their income on housing.”

The Long Road to Recovery

Although North Texas has long had a robust economy, it’s taking time for things to recover. And we’re seeing that certain groups, especially our neighbors in the southern Dallas area and workers of color, are facing big challenges to getting their work lives back on track.

Last year, a report titled “Advancing Workforce Equity in Dallas and Collin Counties: A Blueprint for Action”—produced in partnership with PolicyLink, Burning Glass Technologies and Pathways to Work at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas—showed just how unevenly the economy was recovering after the first wave of the pandemic. Industries that are dominated by white workers rebounded much faster than those staffed by workers of color. For example, the financial activities sector grew more than 3%, while leisure and hospitality employment declined by 21%. In the months since, those trends have generally continued, with workers of color facing greater challenges to finding good-paying jobs that they are qualified for.

A variety of factors have converged to hamper racial equity in our region’s economic recovery. As the report authors found:

  • Discrimination in hiring may be more pronounced during the pandemic.
  • Lower salaries in jobs held by people of color make returning to work during COVID-19 less attractive.
  • People of color are more likely to work in jobs with greater exposure to COVID-19.
  • White workers may have more access to professional social networks that facilitate employment.
  • Black and Latinx households may face greater difficulty working or finding a job from home, due to the expanding “digital divide.”

These trends are hitting North Texans hard—especially when you take into account  that these inequities are only the latest in a long history of racial disparities in our region. Even before the pandemic, workers of color tended to make significantly less than their white counterparts throughout North Texas.

“What we find is that white workers overwhelmingly—at 86%—are making at least $15 an hour; if you compare that to Latinx immigrant workers, only 41% of them are making at least $15 an hour,” Glispie said. “Overall only 61% of workers of color are making at least $15 an hour.”

For workers of color, lower pay means less financial security. It can also impact their family’s educational future and health. For example, kids from lower-income families are often less likely to go to college, and 18% of North Texans don’t have health insurance—and cost is often a factor.

All this means that we as a community have a significant opportunity to lift up our neighbors and support workforce development programs. For our community as a whole to thrive, it’s important that Black and Latinx North Texans in particular have access to the training and support services they need to get good-paying jobs.

Getting People Back to Work

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas leads and invests in a variety of programs that strengthen our region’s workforce, empower more North Texans to find and keep work, and make it possible for our neighbors to advance in their careers. We also fund supportive services,such as transportation and child care,that enable people to get and keep jobs throughout our network of service providers.

Our key workforce development initiatives include:

  • Pathways to Work, which provides training and credentialing programs to help hard-working North Texans get better-paying jobs in the high-demand fields of IT and healthcare. Glispie says programs like this are increasingly important, since in the wake of the pandemic more employers are “up-credentialing” jobs by requiring additional preparation or training.
  • Women in Construction, our newest workforce development program, which is part of our Southern Dallas Thrives initiative, a partnership with United Way, PepsiCo Foundation and Frity-Lay North America. In partnership with Hilti North America, Women in Construction seeks to attract more women to the fast-growing construction industry by providing them with training and wrap-around services, such as child care and transportation.
  • The Women’s Workforce Readiness Initiative, a partnership with CitySquare through Southern Dallas Thrives. The initiative provides 550 Dallas-area women with the social support and technical and soft-skills training needed to secure employment in high-growth industries such as advanced manufacturing and logistics, sales and marketing, and food and hospitality management.

These programs have a direct impact on people’s lives right here in North Texas. Michelle Wheeler, who recently completed the Women in Construction program, says she’s excited about the possibilities that it’s opening up for her.

“It’s great adding to the skills I already have,” she said. “Being in this program for construction has really opened up a lot of doors to opportunities that I may not have had if I hadn’t gone through this program. I’m beyond grateful for everything that not only is helping me while I’m in the program, but even after the program, there’s going to be that support system.”

Michelle says she can already tell it will have a big impact on her career and financial security.

“My goal for the future is independence, and being able to help the next person,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how my career is going to develop. I’m looking forward to being able to save money and get what I need and put myself out there.”

Join the Movement

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, income has always been one of our areas of focus, because we understand the importance of a good-paying job in a person’s life. As our world has been reshaped by COVID-19, we’re more committed than ever to developing and investing in workforce programs that will provide a path forward for our hardworking neighbors throughout metropolitan Dallas.

Income is an area that affects our entire economy. When more North Texans prosper, our region as a whole enjoys greater prosperity. In fact, if we can increase by 20% the number of young adults who earn a living wage, we’ll add nearly $800 million to our local economy. And it is our goal to do just that by the year 2030, as part of our Aspire United 2030 goals—our North Star for driving significant progress in the areas of education, income and health over the next decade.

We invite you to join our movement and create opportunity for all North Texans. You can have a direct impact on workforce development in our region by:

  • Volunteering for our Digital Skills Training Program, in which you’ll coach and motivate digital learners with tasks such as setting up an Indeed and LinkedIn profile and alerts, navigating through Microsoft Office programs, and other various professional technology skills.
  • Making a donation to United Way, which will help support our workforce development initiatives. Click here to make a  donation or to join one of our Giving Societies.

 

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ABOUT UNITED WAY OF METROPOLITAN DALLAS

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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a social change organization that unites the community to create opportunity and access for all North Texans to thrive, challenging the systemic barriers associated with race. Together with our committed change-seekers, we are mobilizing a movement for lasting change, to ensure all our neighbors have access to education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite you to Live United and be part of the change right here at home.

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This article was published on: Sep 23, 2021