26-2 Winter 2014 “Workforce Development” Resource Guide

Volume 26, No. 2 - Winter 2014
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Workforce Development

This resource guide compiles a selection of articles, reports, and websites related to American Indian workforce development. All of the entries here are available online and include hyperlinks. There is a paucity of research articles on the topic in virtual publication warehouses such as ProQuest. Therefore, any attempt to find research-related articles that engage workforce development and American Indians can be challenging. I believe, however, that research on the topic will increase in the coming years as the unemployment gap between Natives and non-Natives remains high

Austin, A. (2013, December 17). High Unemployment Means Native Americans Are Still Waiting for an Economic Recovery. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/publication/high-unemployment-means-native-americans/

This article discusses unemployment rates for Native Americans in several regions within the United States. The article illustrates that unemployment rates in Native communities are highest in the Midwest, Northern Plains, and Southwest regions. The author recommends that one way to address this issue is to invest in the economic infrastructure of Indian Country. Such investments can create thousands of jobs for American Indians. In addition, the author indicated that in 2007, the unemployment rate for White people was 4.1%, whereas it was 7.5% for Native Americans. In 2010, White unemployment jumped to 9.1%, whereas Native Americans experienced a rate of 15.2%. And in 2013, White unemployment decreased to 6.9%, whereas Native Americans had a rate of 11.3%. The unemployment rate for Native Americans has almost always been at least 5% higher than average.

Avery, H. (2011). Oil Boom Brightens Native Americans’ Prospects. Euromoney 42(500). Retrieved from http://www.euromoney.com/Article/2913282/Oil-boom-brightens-Native-Americans-prospects.html

This article discusses the economic oil boom taking place on the Northern Plains, especially North Dakota, where thousands of people from all over the country are moving in order to find jobs. The author says that the Native American population is around two million and that Native nations control 55 million acres. Most of these acres are underdeveloped and many Native people live in poverty. Some of the land on reservations could be used for oil and gas field production, she says; this kind of investment, if used and deemed successful, could result in the creation of many jobs on the reservations for Native people. These kinds of jobs pay financial rewards and make relocation for job purposes unnecessary.

Cross, S.L., Day, A., Gogliotti, L.J., & Pung, J.J. (2013). Challenges to Recruit and Retain American Indian and Alaskan Natives into Social Work Programs: The Impact on the Child Welfare Workforce. Child Welfare 92(4), 31–53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1518534012?accountid=36299

This 2013 study focuses on the shortage of Native Americans in the field of social work. The dearth has hindered the ability of organizations to provide child welfare services in many tribal communities on reservations across the United States. The problem stems from the challenges in recruitment and retention and the authors illuminate that social work academic programs have not made any substantial gains in these areas. According to the study, there are seven major barriers: “(1) a lack of AI/AN professors; (2) a shortage of field placement agencies that serve AI/AN clients; (3) conflicts between students’ academic obligations and responsibilities to their families and tribal communities; (4) students’ feelings of cultural isolation; (5) the need for AI/AN role models and mentors; (6) a lack of understanding by universities of cultural customs and traditional values; and (7) racism.”

Herwig, M. (1992). Native Americans Need to Create Their Own Jobs. News from Indian Country. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/367670819?accountid=44882

In this case study, Mark Herwig profiles a Native man who was able to create a career path for himself by starting a business, Prosper Industries, Inc. During the study, the entrepreneur told Herwig that many people “cry out for more social programs to increase employment and strengthen families, but instead wind up creating a dependency on the dead end street of handouts while social workers create lifetime jobs for themselves.” The lesson to be learned, Herwig relates, is that Native people need to create their own jobs without waiting for support from anyone but themselves.

Hoffmann, L., Jackson, A., & Smith, S. (2005). Career Barriers among Native American Students Living on Reservations. Journal of Career Development 32(1), 31–45. Retrieved from www.researchgate.net/publication/242268672_Career_Barriers_Among_Native_American_Students_Living_on_Reservations

This study evaluates the career barriers among Native American students living on reservations. The study used a hermeneutic qualitative method to collect data from 29 Native students at four secondary schools in the Navajo Nation. The researchers found several themes and then divided them into two surface themes and complex themes. According to the authors of this article, their findings cannot be generalized to all Native Americans living on or off the reservations. Therefore, it is important to read and use their results with caution.

Indian Center Inc. (n.d.). Nebraska Native American Workforce Investment Act Program. Retrieved from http://indiancenterinc.org/31/native-american-workforce-investment-act-program

This web page shows how the Native American Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program has grown to include the state of Nebraska. The WIA operates in 89 of 93 counties in the state, excluding the counties of Thurston, Richardson, Burt, and Knox, which are under tribal jurisdictions. The purpose of WIA is to help reduce unemployment among Native Americans by preparing them for the job market. Nebraska is one of the few states that has initiated programs to reduce American Indian unemployment.

Kleinfeld, J., & Kruse, J.A. (1982, July). Native Americans in the Labor Force: Hunting for an Accurate Measure. Monthly Labor Review. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1982/07/rpt3full.pdf

Although this article dates from 1982, it discusses the challenges that many Native communities have faced due to high unemployment rates, giving a valuable historical perspective. The authors point out that many American Indians live in “isolated Native villages [with] few jobs available.” In addition, the authors mention that many Native people do not actively seek employment in a conventional sense because they are aware that work availability in their communities is rare; hence, they are not accounted for in unemployment statistics. This exclusion skews the Native American unemployment rate.

Public Broadcasting Service. (2006). Assimilation, Relocation, Genocide: The Urban Relocation Program. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/history/relocate.html

This article discusses the urban relocation program, which was established as a “massive social experiment” to relocate Native Americans from reservations to cities. The transplants sought employment in various industries and efforts were made to assimilate them into mainstream American culture.

According to the article, the U.S government policy towards employment for Native Americans went through various phases—two in the late eighteenth century and another in the mid-twentieth century. In the first phase, the U.S. government sought to “make Indians into yeomen farmers,” while in the later phase Native people were encouraged to relocate to major U.S. cities, including Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dallas. The Bureau of Indian Affairs helped coordinate the effort and established relocation offices that sought to help the transplants adjust to the new urban environment.

Stark, J. (2010). Native Americans Learning Welding Skills. Confederated Umatilla Journal 13(5). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/346797777?accountid=44882

This article focuses on 10 American Indians who were trained to become welders. The training period lasted for 16 weeks and those in the program attended classes six days a week. The U.S. Department of the Interior, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Native American Fabricators Welding Schools, and others partnered to offer the program. Its architects sought to enhance the Native workforce and create job opportunities for American Indian communities.

U.S. Department of the Interior. (2014). 2013 American Indian Population and Labor Force Report. Retrieved from http://www.indianaffairs.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc1-024782.pdf

This report presents the findings from the 2010 labor force survey of American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The report was prepared in accordance with Public Law 102-477. The authors state, “This report is based primarily on populations of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) who are living on or near the tribal areas of federally recognized tribes. Most of the population indicators in this report, and all of the employment indicators, do not include members of federally recognized tribes who are living far away from any tribal area of any federally recognized tribe.”

Ahmed Al-Asfour is chair of the Business Department at Oglala Lakota College and served as the workforce readiness director for the South Dakota Society for Human Resource Management.

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