Connecting Men of Color to Careers in Healthcare

HealthWorks East Bay: Connecting Men of Color to Careers in Healthcare (HealthWorks) seeks to increase employers’ competitive edge in California’s East Bay while reducing economic disparities affecting young and working age men of color, ultimately creating vibrant, economically healthy communities with opportunities for all. The project aligns with work at the national level by President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to reduce persistent inequalities affecting boys and men of color.

Men of color face deep and long-standing disparities in employment. These disparities harm their economic security, their communities’ economic health, and the businesses that could benefit by employing them. Their under-representation in the workforce makes employers less successful in broadening their customer base and meeting its needs effectively. As a result, these disparities undermine the East Bay’s equity and economic competitiveness.

With funding from The California Endowment, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development is leading an initiative to connect young and working age men of color in the East Oakland and Richmond communities of California with careers in the healthcare and allied sectors.

Why Increase Employment of Men of Color in Healthcare?

An Opportunity for Young and Working Age Men of Color

  • Young and working age men of color experience much higher unemployment rates than other populations.
  • They are also significantly underrepresented in the healthcare sector.
  • The contribution of young and working age men of color to the healthcare workforce can be greatly expanded by combining skill-development with the support and involvement of visionary employers.

An Opportunity for Healthcare Employers

  • In an increasingly diverse East Bay, employers need an equally diverse workforce to effectively serve their customers and expand their businesses.
  • As the worker population ages and companies anticipate skill shortages, a robust pipeline of young workers is vital to a company’s bottom line.
  • Cultivating a pipeline of young workers of color will provide employers greater choice in hiring the quality candidates they need.

An Opportunity for the East Bay

  • Community economic vitality depends on equitable and gainful employment of all its members.
  • Economic vitality is proven to improve health and security outcomes.
  • Young and working age men of color represent an underutilized talent pool that, if developed and employed, can contribute significantly to the East Bay economy and tax base.

How We Can Increase Employment of Men of Color in Healthcare

Effective models and best practices exist to accomplish this work. Sector partnerships, for example, pair a thorough knowledge of employers’ needs in an industry sector such as health care with a deep understanding of the needs of job seekers and workers, and meet both sets of needs. They are a proven approach. The East Bay has many effective examples.

Public and private sector policy changes can also have a major impact. For instance, Johns Hopkins Health System changed its employment practices to increase hiring of individuals with criminal records and has had a decade of success. In the East Bay, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency has established contractual provisions that emergency medical service providers employ young men of color who graduate from a training program developed specifically for that purpose.

Mayors’ Letter to Employers

In a joint letter to employers, The Mayor of Oakland, the Mayor of Richmond, and the Insight Center’s CEO introduced HealthWorks to East Bay organizations in the health care and related sectors and requested their participation in efforts to increase employment in healthcare for boys and men of color.

Advisory Committee Members

HealthWorks relies upon the multiple stakeholders on the project’s Advisory Committee to inform and guide our efforts and to explore opportunities to align strategies and resources. Responsibilities of Advisory Committee members include supporting the initiative and providing informed feedback reflecting the perspectives of healthcare employers, organizations preparing boys and men of color for healthcare careers, and boys and men of color themselves.


Insight Center staff presented a Review of Process and Discovery Work to Date at the HealthWorks Advisory Committee’s June 3, 2016 meeting. Staff also presented information about the initiative at the Diversity in Health Training Institute Policy Forum and at the East Bay Healthcare Workforce Partnership Executive Roundtable.