Best new jobs for next generation of workers from underserved communities

Panelists at DEI event say opportunities in health care, technology, energy, education and trades are booming

Everyone fears the impact artificial intelligence may have on their future in the workforce. When you’re part of the Black community — which already has an unemployment rate that’s double the state average — the concern is even greater.

It doesn’t need to be.

So said the panelists at the recent State of DEI in New Jersey Town Hall. They felt there are plenty of jobs out there, and that, in some cases, AI is helping to create more of them.

“The new gold rush is technology and emerging technologies,” Jackie Taylor, the U.S. government and public sector alliance and ecosystems leader for EY, said.

She said employees should not be afraid of intelligent automation or robotic process automation.

“Stop looking at it as just an opportunity to replace jobs, but an opportunity to do things innovatively and differently,” she told the crowd. “These automation tools are going to need operators and administrators to support them. 

“I think, for Black and brown businesses, being able to look at opportunities around technology is key.”

Taylor also noted an increase in jobs coming around wind energy and renewable energy — and areas around the ports.

“(These are) huge areas where we definitely need to provide more training and insight,” she said.

Ferlanda Fox Nixon, chief of policy/external affairs for the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Ferlanda Fox Nixon, chief of policy/external affairs for the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said the recent ruling against affirmative action in higher education was difficult — but did open up some career opportunities.

“I think an opportunity for entrepreneurs would be any space that provides remedial help and educational supports for our Black students or students of color, particularly from those households, which are many for us, where our parents did not go to college to get a college degree, to help them navigate through the process (of applying to college),” she said.

Fox Nixon said the reason Blacks struggle to get into college is less about aptitude and more about a lack of understanding of the process. 

“We’re going to need more of those kinds of tutorial programs, are going to need a lot more college coaching for those communities,” she said.

Dana Peterson, a former global economist at Citi who now serves as the chief economist and center leader, economy, strategy and finance, at the Conference Board, said the pandemic illustrated a need for more health care workers.

“When we look at the industries that are going to suffer the greatest labor shortages over the next decade, health care and tech are at the top — and health care is No. 1,” she said.  

“That includes everyone from doctors to orderlies and everyone in between. So, encouraging your young folks to go into health care is super important.”

Dana Peterson, the chief economist and center leader, economy, strategy and finance, at the Conference Board.

And, while education has been a pathway to success — it is not the only path, Peterson said.

The need for labor is going to grow immensely, too, she said.

“For our students who are not considering college or don’t want to go to college, the trades are important because we’re going to have massive labor shortages in people who do things with their hands, like electricians, plumbers, construction workers, etc. 

“Our baby boomers, who have this expertise, are retiring, and we don’t have enough young people going into the trades. So, we need to focus not only on our young people going to college, because that is imperative, but we also need to help young people understand that if college is not for you, you can become an entrepreneur in the trades, too.”