The Surprising Results of a Joyce Foundation-funded Employment Study

As with any great problem, viable solutions only come after a little research. The grantmaking of one of Chicago's biggest players, the Joyce Foundation, has been trending towards employment readiness and transforming the city's kids into reliable employees. So how is the Joyce Foundation Making Chicago's Kids Employable? Before it delves further into awarding grant money, Joyce has been funding research studies about online job searches, and African Americans have been the target group. (Read Joyce Foundation: Chicago Grants).

Thanks to funding from Joyce, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report titled, “Broadband and Jobs: African Americans Rely Heavily on Mobile Access and Social Networking in Job Search.” Surprisingly, the study found that African Americans are more likely than anyone else to go online to find employment opportunities and apply for jobs. It is the 21st century after all, but I would have expected to see Internet searches top the charts for every race, color, and creed.

Here's a few other key findings that the Joyce/Joint Center study produced:

  • 50% of African American Internet users said the Internet was very important to them in successfully finding a job, significantly higher than the 36% average for the entire sample;

  • 46% of African American Internet users used the Internet at some point when they were last looking for a job, either by online search, emailing potential employers or using social networking sites. This compares to 41% for all respondents;

  • 36% of African Americans said they applied for a job online the last time they were in the job market, compared with 26% for all respondents; and

  • 31% of African Americans said social networking sites are very important to job search, which is seven percentage points greater than the entire sample (24%).

Not surprisingly, the Joyce Foundation has taken these results and decided to pour more money into online literacy programs for Chicago's African American population. “Closing broadband adoption gaps becomes more urgent when society expects people to carry out tasks using the Internet," said the study's author, John B. Horrigan, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow at the Joint Center. "At the same time, stakeholders must close gaps in digital skills among all online users so that the Internet can help people turn opportunities into positive outcomes."

In the months ahead, Joyce Program Director, Whitney Smith, will lead the charge against unemployment and an unskilled workforce throughout the city. Smith is most interested in these six fields of study, which promise to bring over a half million jobs to Chicago this decade: health care; IT; business and professional services; advanced manufacturing; culinary and hospitality; transportation, distribution and logistics. And considering that around one-third of Chicago's population is African America, she has plenty of work ahead of her.