Former Merck CEO Ken Frazier and his coalition of business leaders plan to hire or promote 1 million black workers

It’s called the “baccalaureate barrier” – the requirement for an undergraduate degree that many African Americans and other people of color do not meet, preventing them from getting a promotion or a new job.

Now there’s a new initiative in town, dubbed one tenwith a mission to close this opportunity gap and create family careers for black talent in Philadelphia, especially those without a college degree.

Instead of a bachelor’s degree, OneTen uses companies to hire based on their skills and abilities. Former Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier heads the OneTen organization, which he calls “a coalition of leaders” at nearly 70 companies, including IBM, JPMorganChase & Co., United Airlines, Berkshire Hathaway, GM and Airbnb, which together pledge to hire one million Black workers over the next 10 years. Hence the name: OneTen.

In 2021, the association helped nearly 25,000 African Americans be hired or promoted in the salary-supporting family across the country, depending on his First year progress report.

In the Philadelphia market, Sulaiman Rahman, Founder and CEO of DiverseForce, will act as the lead recruiter for the initiative. He opened the co-working space P4 concentrator at 4537 Wayne Ave., Germantown, where the OneTen launch event was held last month.

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The Philadelphia launch was OneTen’s first in-person event, following virtual town hall meetings in Dallas-Fort Worth and Raleigh-Durham earlier this year. Atlanta is to be the next city.

The singles barrier must be dismantled, says OneTen.

College degrees are mostly a requirement for most family-supporting job openings, yet hiring managers complain they have trouble filling vacancies. Many jobs could be “re-certified” to eliminate the bachelor’s degree requirement, OneTen and other advocacy groups said, and result in higher wages. then propel more Americans into the middle class.

“There is a lot of talent spread across the country, and the talent is spread equally. But the opportunity is not,” Frazier said. “What’s missing in workforce development is an ecosystem that brings all players together like OneTen,” he added. Frazier retired from Merck in 2021 after 10 years as CEO and has long been admired as one of America’s top business leaders.

Frazier, a native of North Philadelphia, is an alumnus of Penn State and Harvard Law School. It aims to help end inequality in America and especially in major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, the poorest major city in the nation. For Philadelphians 25 and older, 46.5% of non-Hispanic whites have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while only 18.6% of black residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. It is according to Census Bureau American Community Survey five-year estimate through 2020. That’s a bigger gap than national data, in which 36.5% of non-Hispanic whites have a bachelor’s degree and blacks have 22.6%.

“What we want is for people to be hired in family careers, not minimum wage,” he said. A family-supporting salary is about $65,000 in this area, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator measure for a family of two adults with one child.

Current and former CEOs such as IBM’s Ginny Rometty, Infor’s Charles Phillips and Amgen’s Kevin Sherer have championed broader hiring practices for years, he added. Rometty serves as Co-Chair, and Phillips and Sherer serve on the OneTen Board of Directors.

Rather than a job board, however, OneTen is more of a commitment by Corporate America to open up its ranks.

“A lot of companies were working there. But the goal is to do it on a large scale,” Frazier said. “The 10-year commitment compels us to grow.”

To this end, OneTen has enlisted Johnson & Johnson, Comcast, FMC, Cisco, Eli Lilly and other Philadelphia-based employers and global companies to make the promotion commitment upon hiring. OneTen also advocates recruitment based on alternatives such as military service, certificates, on-the-job training, and community college.

Philly is an ideal city for the mission, with 45 percent African American residents, and “groups we can partner with for all-around support, including transportation and childcare,” said Maurice Jones, President and CEO of OneTen.

“It is the ideal place to weave this ecosystem. And scale it. The assets – the people – are here.

Philadelphia’s black community also represents a microcosm of the racial wealth gap in America: Nationally, black families own a tenth of the assets of white families, Jones said. Meanwhile, recent openings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Release show 11.5 million unfilled jobs in America.

“So we need an alternate route” to hire and promote them, Jones said.

Black business leaders say the initiative is badly needed.

Due to the pandemic and other pre-existing conditions, “the generational wealth gap continues to widen between white and black American households,” said Regina Hairston, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce in PA, NJ. & OF.

“We know that business ownership is one way to close that gap. Another route to building wealth is through having a family support salary. The OneTen initiative not only connects black people without a four-year degree to employment, but it seeks to create career paths. When our whole society has the opportunity to support families and create wealth, it creates a strong economy and strong neighborhoods. Benefits to society.

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