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SOURCING — Use Workarounds & Direct Action to Target Racially Diverse Talent

As we explored in the previous tool on setting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) targets, it is not illegal to focus your talent search when you’re trying to correct a diversity gap around race. There are two ways to do this legally via appropriate direct and indirect action.

Indirect Actions are legal alternatives to traditional hiring practices that help boost representation. Examples of indirect actions are eliminating degree requirements and internal referrals, both of which create barriers for racially and educationally underrepresented talent qualified with the skills to do the job.

Direct Actions more explicitly, and still legally, signal a company’s intention to attract more racially underrepresented talent. These may include indicating your company is an affirmative action employer in the role description or registering as an affirmative action program at the state or federal level.

We explore what these entail below.

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Indirect Action 1: Prioritize Skills by Dropping Degree Requirements

Eliminating degree requirements is an effective way to attract Black, Latinx/e, Indigenous talent skilled via alternative routes (STARs) than bachelor’s degrees. Opportunity@Work has uncovered that employers who require college degrees are automatically excluding 76% of Black individuals and 83% of the Latinx/e population who are STARs. This is a powerful data point to use when advocating for inclusive apprenticeship.

What makes tech apprenticeship exciting is its premise that individuals from alternative skills development paths can now gain access to core roles previously accessible only to talent with college bachelor’s degrees. However, a surprising number of tech apprenticeships are stopping one step short. Such programs eliminate the need for a computer science focus/major but still require a bachelor’s degree.

We encourage company and tech apprenticeship program leaders to:

  • Be specific about what skills backgrounds they are seeking, and question why these are often tied to bachelor’s degree requirements
  • Be transparent about what portion of current/past apprentices have a bachelor’s degree
  • Start to push the needle on thinking how to source and hire those who are skilled through alternative routes than a bachelor’s degree (not just a four-year CS degree)

Indirect Action 2: Eliminate Internal Referrals into the Apprenticeship Program

Internal referrals have been demonstrated to severely limit the racial and educational diversity of the talent pipeline, due to the homogeneity of tech workers and their networks. This one’s so important that we made it its own tool in the next section where we break down how to dismantle referrals in tech work culture where they are often prized.

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Direct Action 1: Signal You’re an Affirmative Action Employer

One way to more explicitly (and still legally) signal your intention to attract racially underrepresented groups is to indicate that your company is an affirmative action employer in your program’s job description. This is a standard for indicating a company is proactively recruiting, hiring, and promoting people of color, women, disabled individuals, veterans. Adopting this status can help signal to diverse applicants that your company proactively welcomes and values them. Such language appears at the end of job descriptions next to equal opportunity employer language. Here’s an example from Twilio:

Direct Action 2: Federally Register Your Program as an Affirmative Action Program

Another way to legally encourage more racially diverse talent to apply for your program is by registering it as an Affirmative Action Program (AAP) with the state or federal government. The process is for organizations seeking to be intentional about correcting barriers to equal opportunity for people of color, and other groups protected by Equal Employment Opportunity regulations. This involves an assessment of current employee demographics, setting participation and targeted outreach goals for underrepresented demographics, annual self-review of AAP performance goals and processes, and more.

To learn more about the AAP registration process, Jobs for the Future (JFF) offers a course taught by lawyer and policy developer, Donna Lenhoff, which can be accessed here for free.

Have questions or comments about the Equitable Tech Apprenticeship Toolkit? Send us a note.