To prosper economically and sustain a high quality of life, metropolitan Chicago needs a well-educated and diverse workforce with the knowledge and ingenuity to drive future growth. Barriers that impede residents from fully participating in the regional economy undercut one of the region’s primary assets -- its human capital. The region is in constant competition with other metropolitan areas to attract both businesses and skilled workers. ON TO 2050 calls on the region to take deliberate steps to bridge the gaps between adults seeking to build a career and employers looking to build their workforce.
However, there are significant challenges to achieving this goal. Numerous measures of economic well-being by race and ethnicity show how the region falls short of ensuring equitable opportunity for all residents, and thus falls short of performing to its full potential. Black and Hispanic residents in particular experience persistent disparities in educational attainment, employment, household income, and other indicators. Over time, these challenges limit the pace and durability of the region’s economic growth, while also impeding efforts to reduce poverty or create opportunity.
Our complex education and workforce development systems must become more strategic and demand-driven in the face of uncertain future labor market shifts. Coordination and communication among institutional partners and between these institutions and employers is limited. As the rate of economic and technological change grows, individuals increasingly need to learn new skills and be retrained multiple times, making responsive and coordinated systems for education and training increasingly important.
Click below to see an interactive graphic comparing racial and ethnic disparities in economic outcomes across U.S. regions.