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Unlocking Success with Programs Committed to a Positive Impact

Steps taken to address racial inequality in the private sector and higher education are not always altruistic. This brief examines the economic impact of having a representative workforce, focusing on the state of North Carolina (NC). We discuss the importance of successful education programming designed to address issues related to Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and people of color (BIPOC) and adult learners through the lens of an equitably skilled workforce, creating a stronger state and nation. It is important to note that there was little economic impact information specific to Tribal and Indigenous people in the data or scholarly works, emphasizing the worst type of racism, “invisibility.”

Particularly in higher education, many programs have been established and continue to address the multiple barriers that BIPOC experience accessing and attending post-secondary education. These programs are vital to the success of BIPOC and adult learners and greatly impact educational success, such as Gear Up, TRIO, Native American Student Affairs programs, etc. One factor largely ignored in the critical conversation on systemic racism from the broader economic discussion is the disparity in access to post-secondary education and the corresponding economic impact (Losavio, 2020).

To rectify this, we must have BIPOC adult members of society with training and development that produces a talented and skilled workforce. To provide sustainability in an increasingly diverse country, advocates note that businesses have little choice but to hire and promote diversity, not because it is socially responsible, but because it impacts their bottom line (Diamond, 2021). However, the success of business and industry is tied to BIPOC and adult learners’ access and pathways to higher education. Though the attainment rate in North Carolina is increasing (9.5% from 2020 to 2021) the increase has not been equitable to the BIPOC population growth and the number of adult learners that need training or reskilling (National Equity Atlas, 2022).