Mayor Eric Johnson will today appoint Lynn McBee as the city’s workforce development czar, a topic that wasfoundational to his 2019 campaign。
McBee is the CEO of a statewide network of STEAM schools for girls, a board member for the Bridge homeless shelter, a philanthropist, until recently co-CEO of EarthX, and third-place finisher in the 2019 mayor’s race. During his campaign, Johnson called workforce development his “number one priority.” But the pandemic derailed efforts on that front. Only recently has his strategy come into focus, and McBee will be charged with pulling it off.
“I know there is a huge need in construction trades and warehousing and healthcare. Now, how do we let people know about these opportunities?” McBee says. “I’ve heard too many people say we can’t find nurses, we don’t have people that are technically trained enough. … Those jobs are there.”
Johnson commissioned a report in April about the city’s workforce. It was released in November andputs numbers to what was largely anecdotal: majority White, college-educated Dallasites hold the jobs that pay the most, while Black and Latino residents are disproportionately likely to earn $32,000 or less each year.
The mayor is nervous that automation might wipe those jobs out in the coming years, but the report signals something deeper. The city and its partners haven’t done enough to recognize the disparity in its workforce. These entities have failed to organize resources to provide education that could help elevate families out of poverty.
According to the report, just 40 percent of all jobs in Dallas pay more than $32,000 while also offering “positive or stable future growth.” The report defines a “family-sustaining wage” as $42,000 or more annually. White workers hold 54 percent of these jobs, a little less than double the total share held by Latino (16 percent) and Black (15 percent) workers. According to U.S. Census data, the median income for a family of four in Dallas is $86,200.
“We got here because of decisions that were made 10, 20, 30 years ago,” McBee says. “This is how it plays out, right? If you don’t give people access to opportunities, if you don’t give them the resources, then guess what happens. This is what happens.”