Demographers predict that by the year 2000, 85 percent of the new workers will be a combination of immigrants, women, and non-European Americans. Increasingly, workplaces will face the same issues and problems that public schools have been facing with regard to understanding and utilizing the full range of human potential within this very diverse population.
In the past, for many reasons women and non-European Americans have not been as successful, by any measures, as European American males in the world of work. For example, in 1986, Korn/Ferry found that of 1,362 senior executives only 29 were women and 13 were people of color, a total of 3 percent at a time when women and people of color made up 51.4 percent of the workforce. Fortune magazine's 1990 survey of 799 companies turned up only 19 women among the 4,012 directors and highest–paid executives. Not much has changed since 1978, when the same survey produced only 10 women among 6,400 executives. This kind of underutilization of human potential is not only harmful to the individual, but is also harmful to business, and all the complex interweavings of the social fabric.
We are at a critical point in history where two forces are in a position to reverse this situation: the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and diversity training.
As business, industry, and schools struggle to come to terms with "diversity," the question of how to accommodate workforce diversity has become a primary focus and a major challenge. The question of how to work with employers to implement the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and accommodate the work-based learning needs of a diverse group of students will also become a major challenge.
Diversity training should enable these companies to be better prepared to accommodate the needs of the students placed in their charge for work-based learning. And, indeed, many of the nation's major employing companies (many of them multinational corporations) have initiated training for new and continuing employees to try to achieve a wide array of diversity goals in their high performance workplaces. For example, American Express has developed systematic training programs that link diversity, team building, and quality. All their employees are required to attend and to develop action plans based on the skills and awareness acquired in the training. The top managers at General Foods spend a specified period of time learning to understand diversity and its linkage to quality. U.S. West, a Denver-based telecommunication company, has had diversity training programs for many years. All their employees, including officers, the president, and the chair of the board have attended diversity training sessions on a regular basis.
However, such companies are not likely to be geographically accessible to the large number of students in urban and rural settings who will participate in school-to-work programs. These students will more likely be placed in small firms where diversity training is limited if provided at all.
According to diversity expert Dr. John Fernandez in his 1993 book The Diversity Advantage, business and educational organizations that learn to use diversity as an asset will stride ahead of those that don't. The payoff will be increased productivity, higher quality, more adaptability to change, more innovation, and increased job tenure.
This research project is intended to facilitate the implementation of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and help to assure that the social environment at work-based learning sites will be conducive to the vocational and social needs of a diverse student population.
This study is designed to address the following major key questions:
Results are intended to provide information needed by school-to-work program coordinators as they select sites for work-based learning, and by work-site supervisors of WBL programs as they train students who are likely to be younger and more ethnically and culturally diverse than today's American workforce.
For more information, please contact the following individuals at NCRVE, University of Illinois, 345 College of Education, Champaign, IL 61820. Rose Mary Wentling, (217) 333-0807, FAX (217) 244-5632. Mildred Griggs, (217) 333-0960, FAX (217) 333-5847
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