Richmond Times-Dispatch

Merck andGMjoin group pledging to hire 1MBlackwor­kers in a decade

OneTen initiative plans to expand on promises to lift minority employment

- BY JEFF GREEN

A new group that includes

Merck & Co., General Motors and Walmart is pledging $100 million in an effort to hire 1million Black workers during the next decade, expanding on existing corporate vows to increase minority employment.

The OneTen initiative, cochaired byMerck Chief Executive Officer Ken Frazier and IBM Corp. Executive Chairman Ginni Rometty, will focus on hiring and training Black workers without four-year college degrees, according to the plan released Thursday. The goal is to provide “family sustaining” jobs that pay an average of about $50,000 a year.

Other members of the founding board include Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express Co.; Charles Phillips, chairman of the Black Economic Alliance; and Kevin Sharer, former CEO of Amgen Inc. and former faculty member at Harvard Business School.

Companies are under pressure from investors, employees and activists to increase workforce diversity and give more opportunit­ies to minorities after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapoli­s police sparked widespread protests. Black Americans have consistent­ly had higher unemployme­nt rates than white people and trailed in promotions and pay.

The group aims to get more companies on board, especially in the manufactur­ing industry, and establish more connection­s with nonprofits, Frazier said in an interview. It also hopes to scale up currently available training programs.

“We’re starting from a standing start; this is not where we want to end up,” Frazier said. “We think of it as a startup.”

OneTen will begin working with employers in the first quarter of next year and start connecting them with recruiters the following quarter. Member companies will agree to specific hiring targets of 250 to 500 workers based on their size. Each company is also providing the seed capital to fund the project.

The initiative is specifical­ly targeting middle-class jobs and workers who don’t have a college degree, Rometty said in the joint interview. At IBM, 43% of jobs no longer require a four-year degree, she said.”This is a segment that is not tapped broadly,” she said. “We feel that this is a moment that we can’t let go by.”

The OneTen coalition is one of many recent attempts to increase corporate workforce diversity.

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