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

It’s called the “bachelor’s barrier,” a bachelor’s degree requirement that many African Americans and other people of color don’t meet that protects them from promotion or a new job.

There is now a new initiative in the city called OneTen, with a mission to fill this gap in opportunities and create careers to support the family for black talents from Philadelphia, especially those without higher education.

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

In 2021, the nonprofit helped nearly 25,000 African Americans be hired or raised in family salaries nationwide, according to its first-year progress report.

In the Philadelphia market, Suleiman Rahman, founder and CEO of DiverseForce, will act as chief recruiter for the initiative. He co-opened the P4 Hub workspace at 4537 Wayne Ave., Germantown, where the OneTen launch event took place last month.

The Philadelphia launch was OneTen’s first personal event, following virtual meetings at Dallas-Fort Worth and Raleigh-Durham City Hall earlier this year. Atlanta will be the next city.

The bachelor’s barrier needs to be dismantled, says OneTen.

College diplomas are mostly a requirement for most family-supported jobs, and yet employment managers complain that they have trouble filling vacancies. Many jobs could be “re-accredited” to eliminate the bachelor’s degree requirement, said OneTen and other advocacy groups, and the result in higher wages will attract more Americans to the middle class.

“There are many talents scattered in this country and the talents are evenly distributed. But the possibility is not, “Fraser said. “What is lacking in the workforce development is an ecosystem that unites all players like OneTen,” he added. Fraser retired from Merck in 2021 after 10 years as CEO and has long been admired as one of the best corporate managers in America.

Fraser, a native of North Philadelphia, is a graduate of Penn State and Harvard Law School. It aims to help end inequality in America, and especially in large subway areas such as Philadelphia, the nation’s poorest major city. For Philadelphia citizens aged 25 and over, 46.5% of non-Hispanic whites have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while only 18.6% of blacks have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is according to the five-year estimate of the US Community Census Bureau’s 2020 Census Survey. 6%.

“What we want is for people to be hired in family-supporting careers, not minimum wages,” he said. The family’s living wage is about $ 65,000 in the region, according to the MIT Living Wage calculator for a family of two with one child.

Current and former CEOs such as Ginny Rometti of IBM, Charles Phillips of Infor and Kevin Scherer of Amgen have been supporting broader recruitment practices for years, he added. Rometti is co-chair, and Phillips and Scherer are members of the OneTen board.

Instead of a job board, however, OneTen is more of a promise from Corporate America to open its ranks.

“A lot of companies have been working on it. But the point is to do it on a scale, “Fraser said. “The 10-year commitment is forcing us to scale.”

To that end, OneTen has brought in Johnson & Johnson, Comcast, FMC, Cisco, Eli Lilly and other Philadelphia-based employers and global companies to take on the promise of boosting hiring. OneTen also advocates hiring based on alternatives such as military service, certifications, on-the-job training and community college.

Philly is an ideal city for the mission, with 45% African Americans and “groups we can partner with for comprehensive support, including transportation and childcare,” said Maurice Jones, president and CEO of OneTen.

“This is the perfect place to connect this ecosystem. And scale it. The assets – the people – are here. ”

The black community in Philadelphia is also a microcosm of America’s racial wealth gap: nationally, black families own one-tenth of the assets of white families, Jones said. Meanwhile, a recent publication by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 11.5 million vacancies in America.

“So we need an alternative way to hire and raise them,” Jones said.

Black business leaders say the initiative is urgently needed.

Due to the pandemic and other existing conditions, “the generational wealth gap continues to widen between white and black American households,” said Regina Heirston, president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Netherlands.

“We know that business ownership is one way to bridge this gap. Another way to build wealth is by providing a family salary. The OneTen initiative not only connects black people without a four-year degree with a job, but seeks to create career paths. When our whole society has the opportunity to support its families and build wealth, it creates a strong economy and strong neighborhoods. Benefits for society. “

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