Black HBCU Graduates Are Securing Jobs at a High Rate, But Why Not in STEM?
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Black HBCU Graduates Are Securing Jobs at a High Rate, But Why Not in STEM?

Black professionals are groomed to be resilient and steadfast, especially when it comes to entering the job market.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the economy was sent into disarray. At its highest, the unemployment rate was up to 14.7% last April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, and 16.7% of the Black population was without work. The numbers are stark, but graduates from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have continued to find a soft spot in the economy as they enter the job market for the first time.

HBCUs were created to educate Black Americans when other institutions wouldn’t. Today, roughly 85% of HBCU students are still Black. Since 2016, the hiring rate for HBCU graduates has climbed an average of 5.9% year over year, LinkedIn shared in some new research, but there was a sharp decline last year for obvious reasons. The hiring rate for HBCU alumni fell by 11.9% in 2020, compared to a decline of 16.2% for all national LinkedIn members. Although it’s still bad, it seems HBCU graduates are faring way better in the job market compared to non-HBCU graduates.

LinkedIn’s Economic Graph Research & Insight team surveyed over 675 million of the employment-oriented online service’s members to see which industries recent graduates from HBCUs and traditional colleges are landing jobs in. They also researched who landed jobs in this past year and what educational backgrounds they have. Senior editor at large, George Anders, shared the research in a recent blog post to draw attention to HBCU graduate job seekers and hiring trends.

HBCU graduates are going to work in education the most with 16% of graduates landing jobs in the industry, followed by 13% in healthcare. Anders sees this as a reasonable career pathway because of another origin behind HBCUs.

“Many HBCUs started as teacher-training institutions more than a century ago,” Anders said in the blog post. “While their focus has expanded greatly, they remain a prime destination for people aspiring to careers in education.”

LinkedIn found that HBCU graduates are most underrepresented in finance, manufacturing and software and information technology. Only 6.2% of HBCU graduates end up on tech career paths, which is surprising since tech executive Glen D. Spencer Jr. found that Black STEM graduates account for 30% of all bachelor degrees at HBCUs.

One thing Spencer calls attention to is the fact that Black STEM students need more resources from HBCUs to venture on tech career paths.

“Academic success was not enough for underrepresented minority students interested in a STEM career,” Spencer said in his dissertation. “Students believed that in addition to having the academic credentials, they needed to participate in a HBCU-industry partnership program to get a shot at starting a career in a STEM-related field.”

There are a handful of HBCUs fostering STEM professionals through more opportunities like Spencer describes. Grambling State University is known for this through its computer science program, North Carolina A&T State through its engineering program and Xavier University through its biomedical science program.

However, the simple fact is, many Black STEM professionals have imposter syndrome, they often don’t feel welcomed working in the industry. Even though a good portion of Black HBCU graduates secure STEM degrees, there has been a steady decline over the past decade in Black students securing STEM bachelor degrees. The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics published in a recent report that only 6.2% of STEM degrees in 2016 went to Black graduates, which was a decline of 16% compared to 2004. It’s clear that there is a huge gap in Black professional representation in STEM fields.

Despite the shortfall of Black tech professionals, companies across the nation still want to hire Black employees as the civil unrest last year called for more diversity in the workplace.

Check out LinkedIn’s full report and interactive infographic for more information.

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