The case for creating a local talent pipeline in the District of Columbia – The D.C. Policy Center – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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This publication is the first of a series that will explore the creation of a local talent pipeline in the District of Columbia that prepares youth for high-wage, high-demand jobs in the region by enabling District employers to actively engage in the education and training of the District’s youth. 


The District of Columbia and the greater Washington metropolitan area have always been great places to live and work. High wages, high quality of life, and a stable hiring environment with a depth of talent has attracted workers from all parts of the nation and all corners of the world. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that in any given year, about five percent of the private sector workforce in the District (including those who live in Maryland and Virginia) are newcomers who have moved to the region either from another state or another country.[i] In 2019, just before the pandemic, for example, there were an estimated 23,000 newcomers in the District’s workforce[ii], and they took one in five new jobs opened in the city that year.[iii]

In this hiring environment, unfortunately, it is easy to predict who is being left out. In 2019, of the 415,828 District residents between the ages of 17 and 64 who were not in school, 53,471 (13 percent) were not working.[iv] Three quarters of these non-working adults were Black residents without college credentials, leaving them with little hope to qualify for the majority of the 117,000 jobs filled that year. Each year, more young Black people born and raised in the District are added to this pool of residents without access to high-wage, high-potential jobs, which perpetuates a vicious cycle that results in a lifetime of low opportunities.

In the wake of the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others to name, many corporations and large employers have pledged their commitment to build a more diverse, equitable workforce. Employment projections suggest that there is a real opportunity to meet this pledge. Both in the District of Columbia and in the greater metro area, employment is projected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels by 2022.[v] Importantly, over the next decade, the need for talent in the high-wage areas of information technology (IT), business operations, and health care will grow.

Even under very conservative estimates—assuming the regional employment in these high-wage occupations would grow at the same rate as the rest of the country—between now and 2029, the region will likely add over 50,000 software developers, health care workers, management analysts, information security analysts, project managers, and business and marketing analysts, all of which pay at or above the median wage. But the region will likely grow much faster: one estimate puts the number of digital technology job opportunities that would open in the region over the next five years to as high as 130,000.[vi]

High growth occupations in the DC metro area that pay above median wage

Thus, we have both a commitment to racial equity from employers and the need to hire new workers, but we still lack a system to bring these two together. Unless we do something differently, these high-wage, high-potential jobs will continue to elude many youth who grew up in the District.

To unlock more opportunities, the District’s youth need to be able to get hired for good jobs with high earning potential and paths for career growth.[vii] What prevents youth from finding high paying jobs is not the lack of jobs, but disparities in opportunities for preparation, education, and credentialing that opens access to employment. For instance, youth lack equitable access to experiences to learn from employers, e.g. job shadowing, mentoring, internships, etc., which limits their career prospects and economic mobility. To overcome these disparities, the District must invest in building a local talent pipeline that enables District employers to actively engage in the education and training of the city’s youth[viii], so they can become co-developers of human capital, not simply consumers of it.

We define the local talent pi


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