The Importance of HBCUs for Educational Equity and Economic Opportunity

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are partnering with private companies to develop and provide diverse talent. Here’s what that means for the workforce.


Air Date: November 9, 2021

Moderator: Rick Wade, Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, Latricia Boone, Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Jimmy Etheredge, Chief Executive Officer, Accenture North America, The Honorable Alma Adams, Co-Chair, HBCU Caucus, Madeline Pumariega, President, Miami Dade College, Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Chime Solutions

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have long provided exceptional education to Black students across the country, opening opportunities for them to thrive in the business world post-graduation. These colleges and universities are developed specifically to serve and provide quality education to the African American community.

HBCUs are part of our future of business and higher education, as well as our tickets to a more diverse and inclusive economy. Here’s how HBCUs are delivering educational equity, excellence, and economic opportunity.

Inclusive Businesses Are Collaborating with HBCUs to Attract Diverse Talent

Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America, notes that diversity is about inviting people to the dance, but inclusion is about asking them to dance.

“I think that inclusion is another really key part of what [Accenture is] putting a lot of focus on,” Etheredge said. “So that it's really more about outcomes, not just the optics, which come with the numbers.”

At Accenture, said Etheredge, all senior leaders get measured on five things: sales, revenue, profitability, progress on DEI goals, and retention of talent.

“By making it visible and by measuring and holding ourselves accountable with leadership metrics, we want to see the progress that we're looking for,” he said.

Etheredge added that his company collaborates with HBCUs to find diverse talent and fulfill those DEI goals.

“The collaboration with HBCUs is critical,” he explained. “We have been working for many years with a number of HBCUs … in how we can network and get our HBCU students more exposed to what careers would look like in this field of consulting and technology, which has traditionally not been as diverse as other areas.”

These efforts widen the scope of opportunities presented to Black students and professionals alike while fueling the economy with diverse and well-equipped talent.

The HBCU Partnership Challenge Can Play an Important Role in Our Economy

The HBCU Partnership Challenge is an initiative that promotes greater engagement and support between private companies and HBCUs.

“The partnership challenge asks the private sector to recognize the importance and the impact of HBCU to our economy and to the principles of corporate diversity and inclusion,” said the Honorable Alma Adams, Representative of North Carolina's 12th Congressional District. “[We] ask that recognition be supported by greater investment and engagement to ensure that HBCUs can continue to prepare diverse talent for our workforce. If you're looking for diversity, we have the pipeline for that.”

“The partnership challenge has about 80 members across multiple industries, such as tech, the financial sector, agriculture, and telecommunications,” Adams continued. “We've been incredibly valuable and fruitful to HBCUs and the private sector. The power of diversity in thought and background cannot be underestimated.”

HBCUs Are Aligning Curriculums with Industry Needs

HBCUs provide great opportunities to both Black students and private companies seeking talent, and this is because curriculums are developed specifically with industry needs in mind.

“Talent is really the new economic currency,” said Madeline Pumariega, president of Miami Dade College. “When you think about economic development, companies are asking, ‘Can I confidently grow my business here? Will I have … access to talent?’”

She explained that, like many other HBCUs, Miami Dade College talks with businesses and industry professionals to develop curriculums that align with and match talent needs in different industries.

“We wanted to make sure that the curriculum aligned to the industry standards — not just the theoretical framework, but the applied theory framework as well,” she said.

By working closely with existing professionals in private sectors and emerging professionals in these curriculums, HBCUs are able to better equip their students for long-term success and provide companies with the talent they might otherwise be lacking.


Speakers

Dr. Tony Allen,

President, Delaware State University


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