Diversity Recruiting – Where the action is

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Brent Williams is not your typical retired professional athlete. A financial professional with AXA Advisors LLC, the former basketball player transferred his aggressive, competitive, team-oriented work ethic from the hardwood to Wall Street to teach clients about wealth preservation, management and investment. In most financial circles, Williams would hardly be sought after as a recruit. Indeed, AXA did not go looking for him. But when AXA’s Web site piqued his interest, Williams searched the Internet for careers in the financial industry, talked to people he knew about the company and applied for a job. He had earned his undergraduate and master degrees in organizational behavior from Stanford University and was familiar with the industry through his college mentor, who was a financial professional, and his personal experience investing his own money.

Industries across the board, from finance to construction and health care, are being forced to at least consider hiring more minority professionals as the country’s ethnic profile changes with the growth of minority populations and the infusion of immigrants and spending by ethnic minorities skyrockets. Pressure to hire African-Americans in particular comes from watchdog groups like the NAACP. The NAACP’s annual report card on racial diversity assesses U.S. corporations for their relations with Blacks in terms of employment as well as charitable giving, advertising, contracting and community service.

Critical Vehicle
The Internet is proving a critical recruitment vehicle for such professionals. Minority job seekers and recruiters on the hunt for diverse professionals are connecting through sites like monster.com, careerbuilder.com and craigslist.com. Some search engines are even adding “diversity recruitment” segments to their own Web sites. Yahoo’s hotjobs.yahoo.com is a prime example. Other sites, such as hirediversity.com, diversity.com and naacp.monster.com, are devoted exclusively to diverse job seekers. Graduates of historically Black colleges and universities, meanwhile, can browse hbcuconnect.com for employment postings.

AXA uses the Internet but also recruits through job referral centers, job fairs and through relationships it establishes with business, civic and social organizations. “AXA realizes that there is a stronger need for African-American and minority financial professionals to tap into the ethnic markets and to educate the public about investing,” says Williams, who became a financial professional in 2002 after playing basketball professionally in Spain, Israel and Japan for seven years. “Many ethnic communities are very close knit and reluctant to accept or believe advice from outsiders when it comes to money and health. Minorities are not only being hired because of their ethnicity but because they can do the job,” he says.

Clarence Wright, senior vice president of Opportunity Markets at AXA Financial’s New York City offices, says that while the number of African-American financial professionals has not increased over the past five years, “the need to educate our people about wealth creation for future generations has definitely created job opportunities for people that can commit to the 24/7 sales job.”

Accounting
There is a growing need for public accountants and certified public accountants of color, fueled, in part, by the growing number of minority-owned businesses needing such services. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), out of 304,000 members, minorities make up only 7 percent, with African-Americans making up 1 percent. “One of our missions is to create awareness and opportunities for people of color. We work with companies like KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte & Touche about mentoring programs,” says Daniel Hobson, CPA, manager of minority initiatives with the AICPA. “In the accounting field there is great opportunity for advancement and management positions. The Enron scandal really brought to the forefront the intricate role that accountants, CPAs and auditors have in the business world,” he adds.

In a July report by accountingweb.com, accounting was listed as one of the least diverse professions.

When it comes to diversity recruitment, “quotas” is a taboo subject. “There is no color quota for a race or group,” insists Clyde Jones, national director of diversity for KPMG LLP. “Our goal is to have an inclusive workforce for minorities and GLDs (gays, lesbians and the disabled). We understand that seeing people that look like you at the office helps with the retention, mentoring and increase of new employees when you are an inclusive employer,” he says.

KPMG recruits at such historically Black colleges and universities as Howard University, North Carolina A & T, Hampton University and Florida A & M. KPMG is also a member of the new Howard University School of Business Center for Accounting Education’s advisory board, which assists accounting graduates with leadership skills and development programs.

Construction
Long a boom industry, construction has been noted for its poor representation of minority populations, both at the professional and contractor levels. New York is taking steps to change the industry’s image by creating a pool of skilled labor that could later be recruited. The New York City Department of Education Construction Skills 2000 program, for example, offers pre-apprenticeships to public high school students. The program, known as CS2000, is a partnership with the Building Trades Association Council and the Building Trade Employers Association. Construction employment opportunities for 18-year-olds and older job seekers with a high school diploma or G.E.D. can also be found at New York State’s Department of Labor Web site, www.labor.state.ny.us.

“In the four years that our program has been in existence we have placed 83 percent of minority students in jobs,” says Diane Springer, executive director of CS2000.

Health
While the number of African-American doctors and nurses has increased over the years, the number of minority health care executives continues to lag. Minority professionals in the industry are leading the charge for recruitment to the industry.

“As health executives, we recognized that the population we serve is not represented in our health executives and we want to change that,” says Brian Conway, director of public affairs and media relations for the Greater New York Hospital Association. The association recently completed the 11th session of its Summer Enrichment Program, an internship program for local undergraduate and national graduate students from accredited schools pursuing a degree or concentrating in health services management. The program is a collaborative effort of the association, the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, the National Association of Health Services Executives, and the Association of Hispanic Healthcare Executives. “We want to expose young people to careers as executives, and we will see the impact of our program five years from now, when they become the CEOs of health institutions,” Conway adds. This summer’s 32 participants comprised 17 African-Americans, nine Asian/Pacific Islanders and six Hispanics.

New and Emerging Markets
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov is a treasure trove of information–including wages, earnings and benefits by occupation–for anyone assessing the job recruitment landscape. In addition, the agency’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, updated every two years, provides such valuable career information as what workers do on the job, working conditions, the training and education needed as well as earnings and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations. While no major industry dominated in the creation and growth of occupations, says agency economist Jerome Pikulinski, health care, management and production occupations were the three most frequent occupation classifications observed in the most recent Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, New and Emerging Markets.

With baby boomer professionals set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, a spate of new occupations will begin to come on stream to cater to their post-retirement needs. BLS identifies these as everything from health, leisure and even retirement advice to opportunities for part-time employment and volunteering. At the same time, their departure from the formal work force creates a demand for professionals to fill the newly vacant positions. Clearly, recruiters with solid ties to the various pools of minority and other diverse professionals stand to do well.

By Inés Bebea