September 19, 2023

Workers Of Color Face Uphill Battle In Upskilling, Survey Reveals

Workers of color face several barriers to expanding or developing new career skills, a survey conducted by Reputation Leaders, a global thought leadership consultancy sponsored by DeVry University, has revealed.

Closing the Activation Gap Report 

The Closing the Activation Gap report defines upskilling as expanding or developing new skills to perform better in a current job or improve career prospects.

To support professional development, meet business needs, and drive economic growth and national competitiveness, it is vital to develop and advance workers’ skills continuously, the report read.

The report revealed, however, that many American professionals are falling through the gap by not participating in upskilling. 

The gap is likely driven by many structural barriers needing to be addressed comprehensively, such as bias and discrimination, a lack of resources and miscommunications on skills priorities.

DeVry University with Reputation Leaders surveyed over 1,500 American workers aged 25-45 between June and July 2023 to gauge their opinions and experiences with upskilling.

The Barriers Widening The Gap

A key finding in the report was that groups disproportionately impacted by societal bias are disadvantaged due to upskilling gaps – potentially impacting their career advancement.

Two-thirds (66%) of people of color believe upskilling is essential for their future career development; however, only 42% currently have access to and use paid upskilling.

Hispanic Worker

Almost three-fifths (40%) of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino and Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islanders (AAPI) workers agreed that workplace bias and discrimination are barriers to their upskilling goals.

Over a third of AAPI workers (37%) said that their employers did not contribute enough financially for upskilling, and one-quarter (25%) of Hispanic or Latino workers say that upskilling is not a priority for employers.

17% of Black or African American workers said, “There is a bias in my company against upskilling people like me.”

The report found Black and Hispanic workers who do not currently receive company-paid upskilling benefits were more likely to use them if they had access, compared to white workers. 

“As the leader of an educational institution dedicated to providing leaders and employers with the skills they need to succeed, this is an urgent wake-up call for workers, businesses and educators,” said Elise Awwad, President and CEO of survey sponsor DeVry University.

The report also uncovered gender disparities regarding upskilling, with 73% of men having access to learning and development opportunities compared to 56% of women.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.